The majority of ACL injuries require ACL reconstruction surgery to return to high demand jobs and activities. A small population may be treated with bracing and therapy, but your surgeon will carefully review the correct choice for you based on your injury and future needs and goals.
During reconstruction surgery, your surgeon removes the torn remnant of the native cruciate ligament (ACL) and uses a tendon from another part of your body (autograft) or from a deceased donor (allograft) to make you a new ACL. Temple surgeons offer all graft options including patellar tendon, quadriceps tendon and hamstrings tendon for ACL reconstruction or revision surgeries. ACL reconstruction is an outpatient procedure and takes roughly 1.5 to 2 hours. Your surgeon will discuss what to expect after surgery, but many individuals recover fully and can return to their favorite sport or activity after rehabilitation is complete.
ACL Injury Recovery Following Surgery
It takes time, patience and commitment to recover from an ACL injury and return to your sport. Your doctor will work closely with you to develop a timeline for your recovery process, which will include:
Following AC surgery, you will use a brace and crutches to walk with your leg straight for 4-6 weeks. Regular icing of the knee and gentle exercises provided by your surgeon and physical therapist will assist in activating your quadriceps muscles and reducing swelling. These exercises include:
Quadriceps firing/setting exercises
Mobilizing your kneecap
Propping heel on a towel to gently gain extension
Knee Range of motion exercises
Recovery of Full Knee Motion
Rehabilitation is a critical part of recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery. At-home exercises, physical therapy and staying active after surgery will help you heal. The first few weeks after surgery, your physical therapist and surgeon will provide you exercised focused on getting your knee straight. Exercises will include:
Straight leg raises in your brace
Before starting any exercises, talk to your surgeon and physical therapist to avoid further injury to your knee. At Temple, our physical therapists will work closely with you to help you achieve your treatment goals.
Returning to Activity
Recovering completely from an ACL injury will require 8-12 months. It’s important to stay patient during the recovery process and follow your care team’s instructions and guidelines when returning to physical activity.
If you’ve required surgery to repair your ACL, keep in mind your long-term success depends on following your short-term recovery plan and treatment goals. Following ACL reconstruction surgery and adherence to post operative rehabilitation plan, many people are able to return to their prior level of function and activities.
Hear from Our Doctors
J. Milo Sewards, MD, orthopaedic surgeon at Temple University Hospital, provides an overview of ACL repair and reconstruction and shares why athletes and active patients with knee injuries can benefit from the Temple Sports Medicine program.