Defining Post-Op Goals After ACL Surgery

ACL post operative goals

It is estimated that there are approximately 80,000 anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in the U.S. each year. Not surprisingly, 70% of those injuries take place while the person injured is participating in athletic activity. Because ACL tears are so common and can put a hindrance on an athlete pursuing his or her career or passion, our Emory Sports Medicine team has put together an ACL program specifically for people seeking guidance in their treatment and recovery from ACL injuries and tears.

In our last blog post on ACL injuries, we got you familiar with the idea of prehabilitation, or care and steps to take before surgery for an ACL-tear. which is part one of the ACL program at Emory. In this post, we’ll cover some of the details and goals of your post-op recovery from ACL surgery, including what you should expect to see week by week:

ACL Surgery Post-Op Weeks 1-3

Goals: The goals in the first three weeks of your recovery from ACL surgery are fairly straight forward, to get patients back on their feet (off crutches), reduce swelling in the joint by faithfully icing (20 min every 2-4 hrs), and to increase the knee’s range of motion and focusing on getting extension back. For specific measurements you should track and exercises to consider, check out the materials on our website.

ACL Surgery Post-Op Weeks 4-6

Goals: Consistently reducing swelling in the knee and continuing to work on increasing the knee’s range of motion are the core goals of ACL surgery recovery weeks 4-6. At this point in your surgical recovery, your knee should be able to be straight or equal to other knee. Your knee joint should be cooing and not warm to touch. Those 4-6 weeks out from surgery should focus on being able to walk without limping and strengthening quadricep muscles.

ACL Surgery Post-Op Weeks 7-12

Goals: 2-3 months after ACL surgery, swelling should be controlled and there should be minimal effusion in the knee joint. Range of motion should be nearly full or equal to the other side full extension and knee flexion should be to 120 degrees. Knee joint should be cool and normal temperature, compared to other side. By this point, patients should have achieved good quadriceps tone with their vastus medialis oblique (VMO) firing effectively. Patients should also seek to establish normal gait pattern and be able to walk without limping at this point.

Does your recovery timeline after ACL surgery match up with what you see here? If so, or if not, please feel free to share your story with us and with our readers.

Emory Sports Medicine’s ACL injury program specializes in providing care ranging from the prehabilitation stage to getting you back in the game. So, in our next ACL injury post, we’ll share with you specific exercises you can use and steps you can take (including video demonstrations) to help you return to play more quickly. Stay tuned!

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