Returning to Competitive Sports after a Torn ACL

Dr. Chad Smalley

Question: I recently tore my ACL and am getting surgery to repair it soon. Will I ever be able to return to competitive sports?

Anterior Cruciate Ligament tears are one of the most common knee injuries in athletes who participate in high demand sports that involve sudden stops, jumping or rapid changes in direction. Recent studies have indicated upwards of 200,000 individuals suffer an ACL tear every year. Due to the resulting instability of the ACL deficient knee, an athlete involved in agility sports will most likely require surgery to safely return to sports.
The large majority of ACL tears cannot be simply sutured back together, but instead, typically require a full reconstruction. Surgeons will generally use a graft as a scaffolding for your new ligament to grow onto during the rehabilitation process. This surgical procedure can be performed arthroscopically which is an advantage for the patient being less invasive, resulting in less pain, and quicker recovery times.

In the post-operative period, an accelerated physical therapy program is started immediately to help patients regain motion and strength. Our patients are guided by a highly trained therapist through a specialized protocol designed to optimize recovery and protect the ACL graft while it heals. The final phase of rehabilitation is individualized to specifically prepare each athlete for the demands of their chosen sport. Although the overall recovery can take between 9 and 12 months and involves a lot of hard work for the motivated patient, the majority of athletes are able to return to the same level of competition as they were prior to injury.

Chad Smalley, M.D.

Arthroscopic Knee and Shoulder Surgery
Sports Medicine
Shoulder Replacement Specialist

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