4 Things to Know About Recovering from an ACL Injury

ACL tear

If you have injured your ACL (anterior cruciate ligament), you may be wondering about the recovery process. How long will it take? What does it involve? Can you return to the activities you enjoy? How will your body be effected long-term?

There are many factors that determine the answers to these questions for you. Here are 4 things for you to know about recovering from an ACL injury.

1. Degree of injury

When you injure your ACL, you have likely torn the ligament to some extent. However, the degree of the tear influences how long it will take for you to recover.

The severity of an ACL tear is often diagnosed by grade. A grade 1 ACL injury involves an ACL that has suffered mild damage and is not torn. Most of the time, this level of injury can be treated without surgery. A grade 2 injury is when an ACL is stretched and torn slightly, and a grade 3 injury is a complete tear. Surgery is often the best treatment for a torn ACL.

2. Common Treatments

There are a few common treatments for an ACL injury. One of the most common nonsurgical treatments is physical therapy. Importantly, this can help patients re-develop stability in their injured knee. Choosing to heal an ACL injury non-surgically may be the right option for patients who have less severe injuries, more sedentary lifestyles, or knees with open growth plates.

Another common treatment involves surgery. In the procedure, doctors rebuild the torn ACL using a ligament or tendon from elsewhere in the body. Patients with grade 3 injuries and active lifestyles that would be hindered by knee instability should consider surgery. After surgery, physical therapy treatment can help improve knee stability.

3. Recovery Timeline

The amount of time required for recovery depends on the type of treatment and each patient’s unique situation. In general, you may be able to resume normal activities after 6-12 months.

Recovery involves a significant amount of symptom management and rehabilitation. After surgery, addressing swelling and pain is crucial. You can do this by using ice, rest, pain relief drugs, and crutches in the first couple of weeks after surgery. Physical therapy also helps patients develop knee stability in the months following surgery.

4. Risks After Rehabilitation

There are some risks to be aware of after rehabilitation. Re-injury of the ACL occurs at the highest rate right after returning to activity. Some of the major risk factors for re-injury are young age (under 20), a family history of ACL injuries, returning to activities that strain the ACL, and returning to activity too soon. Additionally, around half of all people with an ACL injury have osteoarthritis later in life. Because of the risks after an ACL injury, doctors may discourage patients from returning to the full level of activity they had before their injury.

If you have an ACL injury or you have any questions about recovering from an ACL injury, you may want to consult with a professional for advice and treatment. Call Dr. Grossfeld’s office at 502-212-2663 for more information and an expert opinion.