An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is a common sports-related injury. The ability to return to play following an ACL injury is the primary concern of most athletes.
Prompt surgical intervention and rehabilitation are a priority for athletes with ACL injuries. Orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Michael Klassen, MD, understands the importance of returning to your sport and helps athletes do so safely.
Fortunately, sports medicine has made significant advances in ACL treatment. Today, when an athlete sustains an ACL tear, arthroscopic surgery typically occurs a few weeks after injury, and rehabilitation starts right away. Still, the time it takes to return to your sport varies and depends on several factors.
Keep reading to find out what athletes who have sustained an ACL injury should know.
Returning to your sport after an ACL
For athletes aiming to return to pivoting sports, ACL reconstruction is typically recommended early on after full range of motion is regained. The goal is to restore knee stability and reduce the risk of reinjury so that you can safely return to play.
Many athletes have good to excellent knee function after ACL reconstruction. With the right treatment and following your rehabilitation plan, most athletes can return to your sport within a year, sometimes sooner.
Depending on the severity of your ACL tear, some athletes can return to pivoting sports without surgery. Dr. Klassen will discuss treatment options after a comprehensive evaluation and recommend the best approach for your situation.
Factors considered before returning to play
Understandably, athletes are eager to return to play after an ACL injury. It’s also important to know that recovery from an ACL tear is a slow and steady process. Attempting to rush your rehabilitation so that you can return to your sport sooner is unsafe and places you at a significantly heightened risk of re-injury.
Even though you may feel better quickly after surgery, the repaired ACL needs time to heal so that you can safely return to their sport. Before you are cleared to return to your sport, your provider will ensure that you meet specific return-to-play criteria.
This involves physical examinations and tests to make sure your muscle strength and knee stability have been restored. It is only safe to return to play once mobility, flexibility, strength, and function have been restored to the affected knee and leg.
You can expect to work together with your physical therapist and rehabilitation team to restore knee function.
Reducing the risk of reinjury
Reinjury is a significant concern for athletes returning to play after an ACL injury. Roughly 30% of athletes sustain a reinjury of the ACL within the first two years of returning to their sport. ACL reinjury increases the risk of developing osteoarthritis.
Dr. Klassen takes every precaution to get you back to sport as safely and quickly as possible. A comprehensive rehabilitation program focused on movement mechanics, strengthening, and advanced neuromuscular training, combined with allowing the ACL proper time to heal can help lower the risk of re-injury.
Dr. Klassen and his team use science-based return-to-play criteria to provide athletes with individualized, sport-specific treatment so that athletes can return to sport safely. To get started, schedule a consultation with Dr. Klassen by calling the office in Monterey, California.