What Is The Average ACL Injury Recovery Time After A Surgery?
We might have experienced ACL injuries before in one way or another especially as athletes and we might anticipate the recovery time.Before we take you into how quick you can recover from an ACL injury or tear after a surgery,you need to even know what an ACL injury is.
An ACL injury is a tear or sprain of the anterior cruciate (KROO-she-ate) ligament (ACL) — one of the major ligaments in your knee.
ACL injuries most commonly occur during sports that involve sudden stops or changes in direction, jumping and landing — such as soccer, basketball, football and downhill skiing.
ACL Injury Recovery Time
It may take six to nine months to return to full activity after surgery to reconstruct an ACL injury.
The first three weeks concentrate on gradually increasing knee range of motion in a controlled way.
The new ligament needs time to heal and care is taken not to rip the graft.
t is estimated that the majority of ACL injuries occur through non-contact mechanisms, while a smaller percent result from direct contact with another player or object.
The mechanism of injury is often associated with deceleration coupled with cutting, pivoting or sidestepping maneuvers, awkward landings or “out of control” play.
Immediately after the injury, patients usually experience pain and swelling and the knee feels unstable.
Within a few hours after a new ACL injury, patients often have a large amount of knee swelling, a loss of full range of motion, pain or tenderness along the joint line and discomfort while walking.
When a patient with an ACL injury is initially seen for evaluation in the clinic, the doctor may order x-rays to look for any possible fractures.
He or she may also order a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan to evaluate the ACL and to check for evidence of injury to other knee ligaments, meniscus cartilage, or articular cartilage.
ACL tears are not usually repaired using suture to sew it back together, because repaired ACLs have generally been shown to fail over time. Therefore, the torn ACL is generally replaced by a substitute graft made of tendon.
- Patellar tendon autograft (autograft comes from the patient)
- Hamstring tendon autograft
- Quadriceps tendon autograft
- Allograft (taken from a cadaver) patellar tendon, Achilles tendon, semitendinosus, gracilis, or posterior tibialis tendon
Before any surgical treatment, the patient is usually sent to physical therapy. Patients who have a stiff, swollen knee lacking full range of motion at the time of ACL surgery may have significant problems regaining motion after surgery.
It usually takes three or more weeks from the time of injury to achieve full range of motion. It is also recommended that some ligament injuries be braced and allowed to heal prior to ACL surgery.
The patient, the surgeon, and the anesthesiologist select the anesthesia used for surgery. Patients may benefit from an anesthetic block of the nerves of the leg to decrease postoperative pain.
The surgery usually begins with an examination of the patient’s knee while the patient is relaxed due the effects of anesthesia.
This final examination is used to verify that the ACL is torn and also to check for looseness of other knee ligaments that may need to be repaired during surgery or addressed postoperatively.
If the physical exam strongly suggests the ACL is torn, the selected tendon is harvested (for an autograft) or thawed (for an allograft) and the graft is prepared to the correct size for the patient.
In the most common ACL reconstruction technique, bone tunnels are drilled into the tibia and the femur to place the ACL graft in almost the same position as the torn ACL.
A long needle is then passed through the tunnel of the tibia, up through the femoral tunnel, and then out through the skin of the thigh.
The sutures of the graft are placed through the eye of the needle and the graft is pulled into position up through the tibial tunnel and then up into the femoral tunnel.
The graft is held under tension as it is fixed in place using interference screws, spiked washers, posts, or staples. The devices used to hold the graft in place are generally not removed.
Variations on this surgical technique include the “two-incision,” “over-the-top,” and “double-bundle” types of ACL reconstructions, which may be used because of the preference of the surgeon or special circumstances (revision ACL reconstruction, open growth plates).
Before the surgery is complete, the surgeon will probe the graft to make sure it has good tension, verify that the knee has full range of motion and perform tests such as the Lachman’s test to assess graft stability.
The skin is closed and dressings (and perhaps a postoperative brace and cold therapy device, depending on surgeon preference) are applied. The patient will usually go home on the same day of the surgery.
Opioid dependency and overdose has become a critical public health issue in the U.S. It is important to use opioids only as directed by your doctor.
As soon as your pain begins to improve, stop taking opioids. Talk to your doctor if your pain has not begun to improve within a few days of your surgery.