I’ve just done my ACL now what?
I get asked this all the time by people who have recently injured their ACL, so let's talk about it!
Should I Ice It?
An ACL injury is one of the biggest injuries in sport (and life) but more so because of the time frame it takes to return back to sport safely. Initially though it needs to be treated like any other ligament tear! So let's go back to basics; rest, ice, compression and elevation.
There is often a lot of swelling and the first goal is to manage and minimise that as best we can so it doesn’t compromise day-to-day functioning of the knee. It is crucial to get on top of this as soon as possible and continue regular ice application every two hours for the first day or two. This also helps to manage any some of the pain you'll no doubt be in and take pressure off the surrounding structures.
Can I Walk On It?
It amazes me the number of people I still see that have been placed in a rigid splint or put on crutches for weeks and told not to move it! These methods belong in the era of stoning witches to death... Unless there is an associated fracture of the bone, there is no reason to avoid moving the joint - all this will do is increase the stiffness of the knee, decrease muscle function and result in more pain and a longer recovery.
Remember, not everyone ends up having surgery on their ACL so you can regain day-to-day function without one intact; and if you watched the recent Winter Olympics you would of heard at least 150 times that some people were competing without their ACL! Crutches may be used on the day of injury to assist with walking, however, that is all they should be - an assistance! You should still try to keep a normal walking pattern (heel-to-toe walking pattern, good bend and straightening of the knee and even weight distribution between both legs). The quicker you can master a normal walking pattern, the quicker you can progress to the next stage!
Do I Need ACL Surgery?
You do have options here! Depending on your age, level of activity, job, goals and other associated injuries, you may choose whether you want to proceed with a reconstruction or opt for conservative management (physiotherapy). You really want to get your MRI scan and consult with an orthopaedic surgeon specialising in ACL reconstructions as soon as possible following the injury to start to plan what is best for you.
More than often, an ACL injury is associated with other injuries within the knee (i.e. cartilage damage, other ligament damage, joint capsule damage and/or bone bruising) so this will add in to whether you do or don’t need surgery and, if you do, how long you need to wait before you can get it done. In saying this, there are positives and negatives to both approaches so it's vital get all the unbiased information first!
What Can I Do To Bounce Back
Quickly After ACL Surgery?
- Improved knee function
- Improved quality of life
- A greater likelihood of returning to pre-injury sport than “usual” pre-operative care (measured at 2 years post-surgery)
- Full movement of your knee (i.e. can completely straight and bend the knee)
- Minimal to no swelling
- Normal walking pattern (i.e. not limping)
- Good balance
- Strong thigh muscles (you’ll be amazed at how quickly it can switch off!)
- Generally STRONG overall
I'm so confident I can help you that I'd love to chat with you personally about your knee, it's what I'm passionate about! Just enter your details in the field below and a rough time that you'd like me to contact you & I'll be more than happy to explain how we can have you on the FASTEST ROAD TO RECOVERY!
(Please keep in mind, these are general guidelines for the majority of athletes but it is important to consult with your sports doctor or physiotherapist first and make sure you have a plan tailored specifically for you)
Emily has recently completed her Masters in Advanced Clinical Physiotherapy specialising as a Sports Physiotherapist at the University of South Australia.
She has worked with a number of elite, semi-elite and amateur athletes and sporting teams including work with the Australian Institute of Sport, working with National Premier League soccer clubs for over 4 years and being a physiotherapist at the 2016 A-League Grand Final.
One of Emily's passions is ACL injuries and she would love to help you reach your goals, whether that's bouncing back from surgery or avoiding it in the first place!