How to recover from an ACL injury
Unfortunately, injuries are a common occurrence with sports and fitness. It doesn’t really matter what level you are at, whether you are a professional athlete or go to the gym two to three times a week, you are never safe from a knee injury. An ACL injury is actually a very common injury, especially amongst those who play contact sports such as rugby or football. Read on for additional information on the impact of an ACL injury, the recovery process and exercising after your injury.
What is an ACL injury?
Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of two major ligaments in your knee and helps you maintain the stability of your knee. A sprain or even a small tear will heal on its own with rest. However, a complete tear or even avulsion of the ACL will require medical intervention in the form of surgery, especially if you have damaged other ligaments, your meniscus or some cartilage. Without intervention, your knee will become and remain unstable; often making it impossible to continue sports and sometimes you might even struggle to get around on a daily basis.
Although the prospect of surgery might seem daunting, it is actually very commonly performed. Depending on the time of your operation, you might even be allowed to go home from the hospital the very same day. The risk of any complications is very low, but as with any surgery, they are present. To repair an ACL injury, the surgeon will use a graft, taken either from your tendon or a bit of your own hamstring. There are many rehabilitation clinics that offer these surgeries, including Circle Health. Visit their website for more information on an acl reconstruction by Circle Health.
After your surgery, you will be guided by a physiotherapist for up to six months. Regaining full range of motion, full flexion and extension, after your surgery is vital in the success of returning to exercising and it is important to make the most of your physiotherapy guidance in these months. The quickest wins are made right after surgery, although your knee and ACL graft will have to settle first before being able to start an exercise programme. If you do too much too soon, you will risk your graft stretching and failing altogether. Your initial exercises will naturally focus on building range of motion and full extension. It is this stage which might hurt most as there might be fluid retention around the kneecap.
You might be surprised that your physiotherapy routine will soon involve the stationary bike, leg press, lunges, and squats. You will build up to full lunges and squats, starting out slowly half squats and lunges as you regain motion and strength. As you progress, your programme will focus on regaining confidence and strength. Many people find it hard to trust a reconstructed knee after injury and this might take the longest time.
Exercising with a Recovered Knee
Once you have regained back strength and mobility, you will be allowed to start light jogging in a controlled environment. Agility exercises will also be introduced. This usually takes place three months post-op. During your full recovery process, you can always continue upper body work. Talk to your physiotherapists for advice but you will find that you will be able to use free weights as well as machines to train your triceps, biceps, deltoids and more. You can also train your core with abs exercises, as long as they do not aggravate your knee injury. Once fully recovered, most people are able to enjoy the same sports and activities as they did before their injury, including football, squash, hiking and even skiing.
Abbie Owens is a UK based writer for various health-related blogs and enjoys uploading to her YouTube channel. An avid reader of medical and biological research, Abbie publishes current content, keeping up to date with industry trends and breakthroughs. Follow Abbie on Twitter.