The ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) is an important component of the knee for stability and is often torn during sport, needing to be repaired surgically. Primarily, the ACL acts to keep the bottom surface of the knee joint from sliding forwards during movement, therefore an unrepaired ligament may cause instability and weakness.
A lengthy and structured rehabilitation period is extremely important, both after surgery and instead of surgical intervention in order to heal the ACL.
What does the surgery consist of?
Each surgeon approaches individual ACL cases differently, however the arthroscopic approach is the most common, which uses a small camera allowing the surgeon to make small incisions into the knee. Using these incisions and either a graft from a tendon or ligament at another location of the body or a synthetic graft they will replace the torn ligament.
How long does Rehabilitation take?
In order to have optimal movement and stability of the knee after surgery, full rehabilitation can take up to 9 months and can be divided into different stages. The length of rehabilitation depends on the technique chosen by the specific doctor; therefore time frames will vary from case to case.
Following the surgery, the new graft may feel weak as a new blood supply is still being established. It may take up to 12 weeks for the graft to be at its strongest point, however won’t necessarily have the same strength as the original ligament before injury.
During the initial stages of rehabilitation, the focus will be on restoring movement to the joint and isolating the surrounding muscles of the knee in order to increase their strength without placing excess stress on the graft.
As the graft becomes stronger, the rehabilitation program can start to include stability and control exercises in order to gradually build up to more complex exercises that will eventually accommodate for a full return to sport that involves sporadic and sudden movements.
Although the rehabilitation path from the torn ligament through to full movement of the knee joint can be strenuous and lengthy, evidentially the success rates are high especially when followed up with full supervise physiotherapy rehabilitation.
The information in this article is not a replacement for proper medical advice. Always see a medical professional for assessment of your individual condition.