Restoring Your ACL

Approximately 250,000 people experience an anterior cruciate ligament rupture per year in the US. Commonly occurring during vigorous sports or certain types of exercise, clinical treatment generally consists of reconstruction surgery. While ACL rupture management differs by country, American surgeons focus on restoring movement via surgical intervention. Before undergoing surgery, many patients benefit from a consistent physical therapy program. Activity such as resistance training, neuromuscular exercise, high-level dynamic functional tasks, and sport-specific training help prepare the ligaments for surgery.

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Breaking down the injury

To precisely analyze and determine treatment for an ACL tear, clinicians consult data from patient history, clinical assessment, and imaging. When combined with another injury, anterior cruciate ligament ruptures happen more frequently. While exercise is not strictly required, exercise-based recuperation before an ACL surgery can offer notable benefits. A recent study with participants who completed physical therapy before surgery recovered in 34.2 weeks, compared to 42.5 weeks in the group that did not exercise before surgery. Making time for physical therapy before the procedure helps build up muscle in the impacted leg, maximizing mobility while minimizing the risk of re-injury after surgery.

How physical therapy helps

One study showed consistent movement helps joints recover faster. A damaged ACL often happens during activities with quick stops or immediate direction changes, such as soccer, gymnastics, and rugby. To strengthen the quadriceps muscles, many doctors suggest using the stationary bike or elliptical in the gym. Cardiovascular exercises that strengthen the quads are key to expediting recovery time. Strong and supportive quads create a stable movement for the hip, protecting the joint while developing the muscle.

Knee pushdowns

To ensure the legs have enough support and stability to heal, exercises that target the glutes are vital. For example, knee-push downs help build muscle while improving the leg’s extension abilities. Begin by lying on the floor with a rolled-up towel positioned beneath the ankles. Press the knees toward the floor using the quads, hold for 5 seconds and repeat 20 times.

Above all else, consistency

With over 250,000 anterior cruciate ligament ruptures repaired each year, ACL surgery is generally commonplace and routine. Some physicians suggest preparing for the procedure with a comprehensive physical therapy routine to get back to daily life as quickly as possible after surgery. Gentle movements such as the elliptical or knee pushdowns help strengthen muscles while limiting the chance of re-injury after the procedure. Restoring stability and function to the ankle takes time, but physical therapy can shorten the road to recovery.

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