Return To Competition From ACL Injury and Surgery: How Likely Is It?

by / Monday, 17 August 2015 / Published in ACL Reconstruction

The biggest challenge that medical professionals in the field of sports, still face today regarding ACL injury, is how long it will take for the athlete in question to fully participate in the sport after the surgery. Injuries that are sports related, especially an ACL tear, is far more serious than people think and therefore, deciding whether or not an athlete can be cleared for full participation, even after a successful ACL surgical procedure can become a challenging decision to make.acl injury

While surgical procedures and rehabilitation techniques have improved, with the expectation of athletes to return to their sport and at their previous performance level as soon as possible, the question still remains intact. How can Phoenix orthopedic surgeons determine when to give athletes the ‘all clear and good to go’ sign regarding their return, back into the field?

ACL Surgery: The Difference between Then and Now

In earlier times, recuperation from ACL surgery consisted of patients spending weeks in the hospital, with their legs placed in casts, especially after big, open surgeries. Today, the surgery is mostly arthroscopic and patients are told to go home the very same day. This means that physical therapy can be started immediately the day after the surgery, as opposed to months of waiting for the wound to heal.

But this doesn’t answer our question, which is very important for the people involved i.e. the athletes and their coaches. In a recent report by the media, the recovery time after ACL injury and then surgery; is typically about 4-6 months. This estimate of the rehabilitation process is grossly oversimplified, as there are a number of factors related which makes it impossible to achieve full fitness after an ACL surgery during that timeframe. The factors that should be considered to determine when an athlete is battle ready are:

  • The rate of swelling
  • The range of motionACL repair
  • Stability
  • Strength

Special care needs to be put regarding the reconstructed ligament during physical therapy and rehabilitation. Overall strength is perhaps the easiest factor with which the time duration can be deduced. A number of tests and exercises can further be employed to correctly identify the right time of an athlete’s comeback after an ACL injury and surgery.

Some Tips for Slowly Easing Back Into the Game

The coach or trainer in charge of the athlete’s rehabilitation and training period can take help with these tips that will increase chances of the athlete’s safe return to the sport much more quickly.

Special Sport Specific Plans Should Be Designed: These plans can include non-contact drills that take up a portion of total practice time. The workload can be increased steadily and slowly as well.

Monitoring of Game Minutes Should Be Done: This should be taken care of during the initial return of the athlete to the field. The reason for this is quite simple; being away from active participation for some time, the endurance level of the athlete may not be the same as it was prior to the ACL injury and surgery, which can signal an increased risk of repeated injury due to fatigue.

In conclusion, the successful and quick return of the athlete on the field in a smooth and safe transition requires good communication and collaboration between the Phoenix ACL surgeon, athletic trainer, physical therapist and the athlete.

Call the top ACL surgeon in Phoenix and Scottsdale today, Dr. Adam Farber at Phoenix Shoulder and Knee, at (480) 219-3342!