How Long Does It Take To Rehab A Torn ACL?

How Long Does It Take To Rehab A Torn ACL?
What You Need To Know About The Anterior Cruciate Ligament

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL), a key stabiliser in the knee, is often subject to serious injuries – you can barely go a week during AFL season without hearing it being discussed. 

The rate of ACL tears, particularly in athletes and active individuals, has seen a significant surge over the years, making it a topic of considerable interest to medical practitioners and researchers. 

This blog aims to clearly outline the details of ACL tears, from what causes them to the varied treatment modalities available to get atheletes and weekend warriors alike back in the game.

As we navigate through this detailed subject, we aim to answer the question – what are the complexities & pitfalls behind ACL injuries and how can we better manage and prevent them as physios and healthcare professionals?

Understanding Anterior Cruciate LigamentTear Basics

An ACL tear, a common injury especially among athletes, is a result of force exerted beyond the knee’s natural limit, causing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone to rupture. When this ligament tears, either partially or completely, the stability of the knee is compromised. 

The ACL tear is classified into three grades based on severity.  While many individuals report a distinct ‘pop’ at the time of the ACL tear, others may not experience this. 

Importantly, ACL tears do not heal independently due to insufficient blood supply to the ligament. 

As such, lasting ACL treatment often necessitates surgical intervention, particularly for individuals seeking to return to high-demand physical activities – with tailored physical rehabilitation of a period of time to ensure full function is safely returned without the risk of further injury (this is where Rosanna Physio can help). 

Identifying ACL Injury Tear Symptoms and Causes

Recognising the symptoms and understanding the causes of an ACL tear is paramount for effective management and timely intervention. 

As mentioned, ACL tear symptoms often include a distinct ‘pop’ sound at the moment of injury, immediate pain, swelling, instability, and limited range of motion in the knee.  These symptoms can vary in severity depending on the extent of the ACL tear. 

Understanding the causes of the ACL tear is equally important.  ACL tears often result from a sudden change in direction or deceleration, landing awkwardly from a jump, or a direct blow to the knee.  Sports that involve these movements such as football, basketball, and soccer are associated with a higher risk of ACL tears. 

Recognising these symptoms and causes is essential for early detection and lasting ACL treatment with low probabilty of reoccurence. 

Effective ACL Tear and Knee Injuries Diagnosis

After identifying potential symptoms and causes, the next crucial step in managing an ACL tear is accurate diagnosis through various effective methods. 

This involves your physiotherapist checking the knee for swelling, tenderness, bruising, and range of motion.  They may also perform a Lachman Test, which assesses ACL stability.

Though they do not show soft tissues like the ACL, X-rays can reveal whether the injury is associated with a broken bone.

This imaging test provides a detailed view of the knee, allowing the doctor / physio to see the severity of the ACL tear and any associated injuries.

In some cases, an ultrasound may be used to evaluate ligament injuries. However, it is less common than MRI.

ACL Tear: Initial Ligament Management & Treatment

Upon confirming an ACL tear diagnosis, the immediate plan of action typically involves a combination of rest, ice, compression, and elevation, often referred to as the RICE method. This conservative approach aids in reducing inflammation and alleviating pain. 

Crutches or knee braces may also be employed to ensure the injured knee is not bearing weight, allowing for healing to commence. Pain management may include over-the-counter medications. 

Once acute symptoms have subsided, physiotherapy is often recommended to restore knee strength and stability.  It is crucial that an experienced Physio with many years of experience in ACL rehabilitation is partnered with at this early stage of the injury.

The ultimate goal of initial treatment is to prepare the knee for potential surgical intervention, as ACL tears do not typically heal on their own.  Surgery is often necessary, especially for those desiring to return to active lifestyles. 

Preventive Measures for ACL Tears

While the immediate management of an ACL tear focuses on alleviating symptoms and preparing the knee ligaments for potential surgery, implementing preventive measures can significantly reduce the likelihood of such injuries, particularly for sports athletes. 

Tailored programs designed to strengthen the muscles around the knee and enhance neuromuscular control can decrease the risk of ACL injuries / injury.

Correctly performing movements such as pivoting, jumping, and landing can help avoid undue stress on the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).

Femur / knee braces can provide additional support during recovery or for those at a high risk of re-injury.

Adequate rest between intense activities allows the body to recuperate, reducing the chance of injury due to fatigue.

Living With an ACL Tear: Tips and Guidelines

Navigating daily life with an ACL tear demands careful consideration and certain lifestyle modifications to prevent further damage and facilitate recovery.  

It is essential to avoid activities that strain the ACL and knee ligament, such as heavy lifting or high-impact sports. 

Instead, engage in low-impact exercises like swimming or cycling to maintain fitness while minimizing knee ligaments and ACL stress.  Wearing a knee brace can provide extra support and stability to the ACL. 

Regular application of ice can reduce swelling and alleviate pain, while over-the-counter pain relievers can manage knee and ACL discomfort. 

Minor ACL injuries may not need surgery - but they will need the guidance of an experienced ACL Rehab Physiotherapist

Elevating the injured leg can also help reduce swelling.  Maintain a healthy diet rich in proteins and vitamins to aid ACL tissue repair. 

Finally, attending regular physiotherapy sessions with an experienced ACL Rehab Physio will facilitate recovery by strengthening the knee and improving flexibility. 

Medical Intervention and Impact on Sports Athletes

In addition to adaptive lifestyle changes, medical intervention plays a pivotal role in managing ACL tears, especially for athletes whose professional commitments necessitate a swift and effective ACL injury recovery. 

Surgeons usually reconstruct the torn ACL using a graft from another ligament in the patient’s body. The ACL injury surgery allows athletes to return to their professional sports, often within 6 to 12 months.

Post-surgery, a robust ACL Rehab protocol physiotherpay from an experienced Physio with many years experience in this area is crucial.  It helps restore knee strength and mobility, critical for an athlete’s performance – and importantly, greatly reduces the risk of further injuries.

Pain management strategies, such as medication and cryotherapy, are imperative for a comfortable recovery.

The mental impact of an ACL tear can be profound.  Psychological support, alongside ACL Rehab physio treatment, aids in fostering a positive recovery environment.

Summing up...

In conclusion, ACL tears present significant challenges, especially for athletes and people that are active.  An understanding of the basic knee and ACL anatomy, symptoms, causes, and diagnostic procedures assists in effective management and knowing what to do next or who to speak about getting the help you need.

Our ACL Rehab Physio has many years experience working with professional atheletes, weekend warriors and people that just need the right support in bringing their knee / ACL injuries safely back to full function and pain free movement again.  

If this sounds like you, please don’t hesitate to call us on (03) 9457 2336 or book online for an initial consultation to get the help you need.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Call Now Button