Returning to Sports After ACL Reconstruction

It’s hard to find an athletic pursuit that doesn’t somehow involve your knees, which puts these large joints in the direct line of fire when it comes to injury. Luckily, we’ve come a long way in helping you get back into the game through anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, but it requires patience and a little bit of work on your end.

At our practice, Dr. Timothy Wilson is an orthopedic surgeon who understands the goals of athletes — to heal as quickly, and as strongly, as possible. We can do our part by using the most minimally invasive techniques possible for your reconstruction, but it’s important that you play an active role in your recovery.

Here’s a look at returning to sports after an ACL reconstruction.

No single timeline

The first thing to understand about ACL reconstruction and your return to activity is that each case is unique. For example, a professional defensive lineman’s return to football is going to look a lot different than that of a weekend warrior who enjoys a few games of tennis with friends. 

In this example, we’re using two extremes — a finely tuned athlete whose livelihood depends on playing and someone like the rest of us, who is fit and has the luxury of time. That said, the NFL player may have a longer haul because of the demands that he will be placing on his newly reconstructed knee. Conversely, we might be able to send the tennis player back to the courts in less time, allowing them to ease into the activity under our watchful eyes.

So, when it comes to your timeline after we’ve reconstructed your ACL, there are many factors that play a role and we take them all into consideration. To give you an idea, many patients return to their activity within a year, while it may take others up to two years to reach pre-injury levels of soundness and strength.

Doing your part

One of the most important things you can do to speed your recovery is to partake vigilantly in your recovery process, which means following our instructions to the letter. 

Shortly after your ACL reconstruction, we set you up with a course of physical therapy, which is critical for restrengthening your knee, as well as preserving flexibility and range of motion. It’s important that you attend all of these therapy sessions, even toward the end when you may be feeling fine.

As you progress, we slowly add more activity into your recovery and then we monitor how your reconstructed ACL holds up. It’s crucial that you report any issues during this time and listen carefully to your body. If you feel your knee start to give, swell, or hurt, please stop what you’re doing and report the problem to us.

As well, we may outfit you with a brace during this time and it’s important that you wear any equipment we recommend. A pick-up game of hoops is great when you’re returning from the store, but if you don’t have your brace, sit this one out.

The bottom line is that your return to sports after your ACL reconstruction depends upon a wide range of factors. Rest assured, our goal is the same as yours — to get you back in the game. And we want to do this in a way that avoids re-injury.

If you have more questions about returning to sports after ACL reconstruction, contact our office in Lexington, Kentucky, to set up an appointment.

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