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Mon, Sep 12, 2022
Athletes—both amateur and professional—are vulnerable to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. It’s not just adults; active children are at risk too. In fact, each year, more than 8 million sports-related injuries in children are severe enough to require treatment.
Surgery is often necessary for active adults and young people with an ACL tear. ACL surgery recovery requires several months of patient rest and rehabilitation, especially if a return to sports is desired. Know what to expect and what is realistic as you or your child prepares for an ACL procedure.
Recovering from ACL surgery takes time, which can be frustrating for active individuals. It is essential to follow your surgeon’s timeline and instructions. Failing to do so can lead to reinjury and more significant injuries. It’s not easy, especially for a young athlete, to wait and even to give up a season of sports, but doing so is essential for full recovery.
ACL recovery is fairly long, unfortunately. The procedure involves repairing and reconstructing the ACL by grafting tissue to the ligament. The graft comes from another part of the body or from a donor.
It takes time for the graft to fully integrate into the tissue in the joint. Most patients begin walking and participate in physical therapy immediately, but full recovery and a return to play without restrictions takes between 6 and 12 months.
The ACL return to sport timeline varies depending on individual factors. Your surgeon and physical therapy team will evaluate your progress and determine when you can return to sports. They will likely make a distinction between the types of sports. For those that require twisting motions and full contact, the timeline will be longer.
In general, full return to sports occurs between 6 and 12 months. For young athletes, the surgeon might push for at least nine months of full recovery before coming back to athletics. Research indicates that young people who return to full play before nine months have a significantly increased risk of reinjury. For their long-term health, it’s best to be patient.
Running and other impact activities put a lot of stress on the knee joint. Return to running as prescribed by your surgeon and therapy team. You will have to ease back in slowly and pay attention to any pain or swelling running causes. Most people are ready to start running again around three to five months after the procedure.
It’s important to understand that everyone’s experience recovering from the procedure will be different. Your surgeon will discuss your personal timeline and any special considerations. These are the phases in a general timeline that includes physical therapy and rehabilitation:
Throughout this recovery timeline, you will have appointments with your surgeon to monitor progress. They will consult with your physical therapy team to help determine how the recovery is going and when you can return to more activities.
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