Sports Medicine

November 14, 2016

The Time and Dedication It Takes to Fully Recover From ACL Surgery


ACL injuries can require reconstructive surgery for proper healing. The recovery process following surgery involves several months of rehabilitation to restore your knee’s full strength and flexibility.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in your knee helps keep the joint stable, and a damaged ligament may require surgery before you can achieve normal function and stability. ACL surgery often involves using minimally invasive methods to assess the injury, remove damaged pieces of the ligament, and put a tendon graft in place where healthy ligament tissue will grow. While surgery performed by an experienced ACL surgeon in Arkansas typically does not require an overnight stay in the hospital, your full recovery take can several months. The following ACL surgery recovery timeline will give you an idea of what you can expect during your rehabilitation period.

The First Two Weeks
During the first two weeks following your ACL surgery, your recovery process will involve plenty of rest and care for the surgical site to lower your risk for infection and promote proper healing. Your ACL surgeon will advise you to use crutches during this time for support and mobility. You will perform certain exercises under the supervision of a physical therapist to help you slowly regain your normal range of motion and lower the risk of blood clots. These exercises may include using a stationary bike or doing quad sets. Your knee will be sore during this time, but you should still be able to perform the activities approved by your rehabilitation team.

Two to Four Weeks
Two to four weeks after your ACL surgery, you will be expected to gradually reduce the amount of time you spend using crutches for support. You may be fitted for a brace that helps keep your knee stable, although these are usually only worn for a just few weeks. You will meet regularly with a physical therapist and continue performing the rehabilitative exercises that help you regain muscle strength and improve your range of motion.

One to Four Months
One to four months after your ACL surgery, you can expect that the exercises that you are assigned for physical therapy will become increasingly challenging. These can include single-leg squats, stair climbing, lateral stepping, agility training, and elliptical training. These rigorous activities will strengthen the muscles around your knee and reduce your risk of re-injury. Pay close attention to any pain or swelling, working closely with your physical therapist to monitor your recovering knee’s limits.

Four to Nine Months
Four to nine months after ACL surgery, you will work on building up your stamina, increasing strength in your quadriceps, and improving coordination. Your physical therapist may encourage you to jog a few miles each day. You might also be able to resume physical activities that are not too strenuous, such as playing nine holes of golf or practicing shooting baskets on a basketball court. When your ACL surgeon clears you for your normal sports activities, you can safely resume doing these, but it is crucial that you focus on keeping your knee joint strong and flexible. You can do this by performing warm-up exercises, such as using a stationary bike for 15 minutes, before playing sports.

If you have suffered a knee injury and are interested in discussing the typical ACL surgery recovery timeline with an Arkansas ACL surgeon, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877) 918-7020 for an appointment with one of our supportive surgical experts.

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