I Tore my ACL...Now What?!

Unfortunately, ACL tears are fairly common in the active population. They are commonly caused by quick, non-contact pivoting injuries. Often they are accompanied by a loud pop and immediate knee pain/swelling. Not every ACL tear needs surgery, but in young, active people, it is frequently required. If this happens to you, here are some pearls:

-YOU CANNOT AND SHOULD NOT HAVE SURGERY UNTIL YOU HAVE FULL RANGE OF MOTION OF THE KNEE AGAIN! You will not be doing yourself any favors if you have your ACL reconstructed on a stiff knee. You will not recover as well, and ultimately you will not be happy with your outcome. In the days following your injury, your priority needs to be to reduce the swelling with compression, ice and elevation. In the weeks that follow, you need to work diligently on obtaining full extension and flexion of the knee.

-Don't sit around and do nothing. Get up, move around, try to be as active as you can. Avoid changing directions quickly, running, or any activities that involve pivoting motions. If you feel the knee slipping, then stop that activity as you may be causing more damage.

-Surgery is not emergent! Some people meet the criteria to get surgery the following week, and for others it takes months of hard work to get them ready. BE PATIENT

-There are several different graft choices your surgeon may choose depending on your particular situation. The most common graft choices are: Hamstring, Patella, Quadriceps Tendons, or a cadaver graft (also called Allograft). Each graft has pros and cons that your surgeon will discuss with you.

-Rehabilitation after an ACL reconstruction can be prolonged. Most of the time, will not return to contact sports until 9 months or longer post operatively. However, you will be back to lighter athletic activities such as jogging around 2-3 months. 

-While it is a process requiring commitment and patience, ACL reconstruction has great outcomes and can get you back to the activities you enjoy!

William Ashford, MD

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