Kicking the ACL Recovery Myth

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Something so critical and negative can occur in a matter of seconds. Life changing events such as ACL tears happen playing any sport, but is 57.3% more likely in women’s soccer.  Speaking from personal experience, my ACL tear has affected my life in many ways, but your strength, and mindset can push you through any difficult matter you will face as long as you urge yourself to fight through.

Your ACL is a tendon located in the back of your knee holding your knee joint in place. It connects your femur to your tibia. When you tear your ACL the key point most doctors ask for is if there was a popping sound from your knee, following that question, the trainer does many knee tests. To determine if your ACL is torn, they place their hand behind your knee and pull forward to check for resistance. When there is an ACL tear in your knee you typically have little to no resistance and your knee cap is able to move outward when performing this test. To repair your ACL you must undergo surgery and either use your hamstring or patella bone graft to pull the tendon together.

The recovery time for an ACL tear is nine months, undergoing surgery and physical therapy following the day after and every day till the end of the nine months. Although this nine months is only temporary, life long pain sometimes occurs when not treated well while performing certain events. The process takes almost a full year because of the stages you have to go through, a week after surgery you focus on range of motion, four months after you begin to run, then the following months after are focused on turns, cuts and sport agility.

Physical therapy is painful, but you have to go into therapy not fearing pain. It is okay to tell yourself to fight through the upcoming pain, stress and work from therapy. You have to retrain your knee all over again, from walking, bending, twisting and any basic function we would never think twice of. Surgery typically occurs when your knee is no longer swollen and you are able to walk without any problem. Going into surgery is a scary process, but anyone is capable of handling it. Surgery lasts an hour to two hours, and you typically begin to feel pain the night of, or a day after.

Even though there are many stages of what seems like a permanent injury, the safer route is to stay in physical therapy for nine months rather than six. Some doctors argue between waiting for nine or six months because studies show an increase of re-tearing your ACL when you play at six months. The physical therapy plan I am on calls for nine months of rehab.

My progress has been increasingly better, on my third week of surgery I was able to have full range of motion in my knee, and am walking again with my brace un-locked. The road to recovery certainly is not easy, and some-what painful, but having a strong mentality is helping me push myself to recover safe and well. Feeling defeated and angry is a normal feeling, but once you begin to see progress, once you hit one month after surgery, it amazes you to see how far you’ve come by pushing yourself to not give up.


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