Setting SMART ( Specific- Measurable- Attainable- Relevant- Time-based) goals is the hallmark of a good rehabilitation program, and recovery after ACL Reconstruction should be no different. In preparation for your surgery it is important to arm yourself with realistic expectations about the journey ahead and understand that the rehabilitation process is never a straight line, but a convoluted adventure.
So what does the road to recovery look like?
Initially, the surgery itself will likely leave you in hospital overnight with the aim to go home the following morning. You will be allowed to walk on your operated leg immediately after surgery, however will require a short stint on crutches in order to protect the knee and help build up to walking normally again.
You can start rehab as early as Day 1, completing some basic exercises to restore normal knee movement and waking up those sluggish quads. These will gradually progress into more challenging drills, always respecting the natural timeframes the body requires for healing.
As physiotherapists, we have certain boxes we must tick in order to progress our patients safely from one stage of rehab to the next. These revolve around ensuring you have adequate strength, range of motion, and control of your knee, and should always align with your individual goals.
In most case, we can rest assured that the ACL graft is strong and can withstand a bit more load around the 3-month mark. This is when we can begin to do some preparation for returning to running.
Nonetheless, it is still important to take our time! Remember, this is something your body hasn’t done for a while and will need to adapt to all over again!
Returning to sport is not recommended until a minimum of 9 – months after surgery (however, the longer you can hold off the better!). There are a variety of important factors that contribute to a player’s readiness to return to their sport- one of which is confidence. So if you have any fears or reservations, make sure you discuss these with your physiotherapist.
Always remember that everyone’s rehab journey is different, and depends on a number of different things; some of which include your baseline level of fitness, your goals, and your commitment to Physiotherapy. So resist the temptation to compare yourself to others!