What Does Recovery after ACL Reconstruction Surgery Involve?

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are typical among athletes who practice sports that involve jumping, running, cutting, and pivoting motions, such as football, basketball, lacrosse, skiing, and many others. 

Whether it results from non-contact mechanisms or direct impact, the ACL may be completely ruptured, leading to a painful injury that will require reconstructive surgery to regain the full functionality of the knee. 

For the reconstructed ligament to successfully heal, it's imperative to undergo a period of recovery and rehabilitation.

It should be noted that ACL reconstruction surgery isn't the only available treatment route. However, due to the ligament's limited capacity for healing, a severe tear of the ACL typically requires such an intervention, especially if the patient's sport or occupation demands strenuous effort. 

After completing the ACL reconstruction intervention, the patient is allowed to go home on the same day. Before being discharged, the surgeon will offer advice on reducing aches, stiffness, and swelling, using mobility aids, what medication is recommended to alleviate pain, and applying bandages to the operated area. 

Recovery from ACL Reconstruction Is a Lengthy Process Taking Several Months to Complete

The use of a brace to maintain knee stability is recommended, as well as progressive physical therapy. During this recuperation period, patients can gradually return to athletic activities that don't overexert the repaired knee. Such activities include:

  • Biking and linear motion activities – 3 to 6 weeks
  • Running on a treadmill – 10 to 12 weeks
  • Running outdoors – 3 to 4 months
  • Pivoting sports – 6 to 8 months

This timeline is merely a median average and is highly dependent on the patient's particular condition. To ensure a successful recovery, it is imperative to consult with your physician on the best time to reintroduce such activities into your routine.

While it may feel like recovery from ACL reconstruction takes a long time, it's essential to understand why this is. As the body's largest joint, the knee works together with all the muscles and bones on the side of the lower body and throughout the back, supporting strenuous activities. When the knee is damaged, it disrupts the entire mechanism. Blood circulation in the knee is limited and hinders fast healing, thus resulting in a longer recovery time. 

ACL reconstruction rehab cultivates strength and functionality – the latter ensures the ability to perform an activity while the former enables said activity to be performed with force. As a rule of thumb, strength takes longer to develop compared to functionality.