Beware The Dreaded ACL Tear
Die-hard sports fans fear the dreaded ACL injury. An ACL sprain means a few games missed. An ACL tear? There goes the season. So what’s an ACL injury? Above all, how long after ACL reconstruction can patients walk again?
Breaking down the ACL
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of 4 ligaments connecting the kneecap to the thigh and shin bones. The ACL and PCL (posterior cruciate ligament) are on the inside of the knee joint. The ligaments allow back and forth motion, some twisting, and stability. ACL tears cause immense pain and significantly reduce mobility.
How bad is the tear, doc?
ACL injuries are fairly common with 200,000 surgeries in the US yearly. The degree of damage determines if ACL reconstruction is necessary. A grade 1 sprain may need rest and physical therapy. In contrast, a grade 2 or grade 3 tear may require surgery or reconstruction.
The surprising timeline to walking again
ACL surgery is an outpatient procedure, provided there are no complications. Surprisingly, patients can walk 1-2 days after surgery. But there’s a catch. Patients can only walk a few minutes daily. For the first 2 weeks, standing and walking for a few minutes reduces swelling and helps regain muscle strength and flexibility. Of course, moving happens with the help of crutches. Walking is a part of the recovery program created by the orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist.
Walking unassisted and the timeline for recovery
The full recovery timeline is dependent on several factors, from the extent of the injury, age, and weight, to the degree of aftercare. Patients walk unassisted within 2-4 weeks, but for short periods. After 10-12 weeks, expect brisk walking, light jogging, and even plyometric exercise. Full recovery on ACL reconstruction is 6-12 months, or more with physical therapy.
Get back on your feet in no time
An ACL reconstruction is a simple procedure with long-term recovery. On the bright side, walking again, assisted or unassisted, happens in a short time frame. Following the exercise and recovery regimen of the medical team is the key to a successful ACL recovery.