PT eDigest

PTD0814_SoccerGetting Back in the Game After ACL Surgery

In 2012, National Football League running back Adrian Peterson returned from an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear in his knee to have the best season of his career. His amazing recovery shows how far ACL treatment has progressed over the last decade and gives many athletes hope that they too can make full recoveries after ACL surgery.

The ACL connects the upper and lower leg bones. The sports most frequently implicated in ACL tears—football, skiing, basketball, gymnastics and soccer—require frequent twists of the knee, shifts in weight between one leg and the other, or high-speed stops and starts. Because ACL strength is a necessity in these sports, a quick return to practice and competition after surgery to repair an ACL tear is often not practical.

Before surgery, physical therapy can prepare the knee for surgery. The more strength, mobility and the better your body’s sense of position in space before surgery, the fuller your range of motion afterward.

How long before you can return to sports following ACL surgery? In most cases, you should expect to wait at least six to twelve months to return to full physical activity. Structured physical therapy will begin two to ten days postsurgery and will include the following:

  • For the first several weeks after the injury, you will have to use crutches and possibly wear a knee brace to avoid putting complete weight or strain on the tendon.
  • You will use the RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) method to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • As the swelling decreases, you will start a series of limited, low impact exercises designed to increase the muscular strength and improve the range of motion in the afflicted knee.
  • When your quadriceps strength is 80% to 90% of that on your uninjured side, we can begin planning your resumption of athletic activity.

 Advances in treatment have been impressive, but recovery from ACL injury is still a long, slow process. A rush to return to full activity can be dangerous and career ending in itself. Whether you are anticipating surgery or recovering from it, we can design an exercise program that will help you return to full physical activity as quickly as possible.

Download the PTedigest for August 2014