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Getting Active Again After an ACL Injury

Your knee is a complex joint – and one that you rely on every single day. Inside of your knee, you have four ligaments: lateral collateral ligament (LCL), the medial collateral ligament (MCL), the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Chances are pretty high that you’ve heard of the ACL. It’s one of the most important ligaments, and unfortunately, it’s one of the most injured ligaments. An estimated 200,000 ACL injuries are reported each year.

Because the ACL is such an important ligament – it prevents your tibia from sliding too far forward – it’s important to take ACL injuries seriously. In fact, it can take months and even up to a year to fully recover.

At Northern Virginia Orthopaedic Specialists, Dr. Christopher Highfill, Dr. William Bartley Hosick, Dr. John Kim, and Dr. Kevin Peltier are skilled in every facet of sports medicine and orthopaedic care – and that includes ACL rehabilitation too. If you’ve injured your ACL and are ready to get back to your regular activities, read this first.

How did you injure your ACL?

ACL injuries are common, and they are often seen in sports that require quick stops, sudden turns, and intense impact. That’s why athletes who play the following sports are most at risk for an ACL tear:

Depending on the severity of the injury, you may have noticed a popping sound during the moment of impact. Swelling, stiffness, and the feeling like your knee might give out are also symptoms of an ACL injury.

Recovering after your ACL injury

Although you might be anxious to get back to your active lifestyle, it’s important to allow your knee to fully heal before resuming your normal athletic activities. Treatments may include:

Note: even if you opt for surgery, you’ll likely still need physical therapy. Physical therapy is an essential part of any treatment plan because it helps to restore the range of motion in your knee as well as strengthen your knee. However, you may not respond to physical therapy until you undergo surgery.

At the beginning of rehabilitation

During the first stages of your rehabilitation, you’ll focus on gentle exercises. The first goal is to help improve your range of motion and build up the strength in your knee as well as your thigh and leg. If you had surgery, rehab will start shortly after surgery.  

As you progress through rehabilitation

Once your range of motion is improving and you’re building muscle, you’ll move on to exercises that help continue to prepare your knee for normal activities like walking and running. Physical therapy helps your knee to regain full function. This helps to reduce the chance that you re-injure your ACL once you return to your activities.  

Bottom line: always follow your physical therapy instructions. Though you may be eager to get back to your usual activities, it’s important to be patient, or you risk reinjuring your ACL.

Ready to take your next steps? 

At Northern Virginia Orthopaedic Specialists, it’s our mission to help you get back on your feet. If your ACL has been injured, we’ll help you get on the right recovery path. To request an appointment at one of our two convenient locations, call the location of your choice or use our online booking tool.

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