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Physical therapist smiling at her patient on crutches.

ACL Rehab: Jump-Start Recovery with Physical Therapy

Author: CHKD Sports Medicine, Richmond Letterio, PT, DPT
Published Date: Monday, March 29, 2021

Returning to sports after ACL reconstruction is a long process. Research has shown that rehabilitation should last at least nine months to decrease the risk of re-injury. The best way to ensure that you can return to the field in a timely and safe manner is by beginning physical therapy shortly after surgery and continuing until you are fully healed. There are many benefits to getting started with a physical therapist as soon as possible.

Here’s four ways physical therapy can help:

  • Achieving early quadricep strength and knee range of motion has been shown to have long-term benefits. The quad is the large muscle on the front of the thigh. You may have been issued an electrical stimulation unit to help regain quad strength. Your physical therapist can make sure you are using your unit correctly. They can also teach you a variety of exercises to help you use your quad correctly. Having a strong quad with good control early after surgery can lead to a safe return to normal walking.
  • It is also important to restore the ability to move the knee. Getting the knee straight is one of your first goals after surgery. If you can’t straighten your knee, it is difficult to recover properly. Research also shows that patients with the ability to bend their knee to 120 degrees within four weeks after surgery (and equal to the non-surgical leg within 12 weeks), have the best outcomes.
  • Your knee will be swollen after surgery. Your physical therapist will provide strategies to manage and minimize the swelling. These techniques include ice, elevation, and compression, which you should start immediately after surgery.
  • A physical therapist can also help ease uncertainties about what you are able to do and how you should be feeling immediately following surgery. It is important to work through any fear of movement, which is a common issue. Your therapist will help decrease your pain and provide a safe environment to practice movement skills. They will help you improve your mechanics with functional activities, which include everything from walking to running and cutting.

Remember, your physical therapist is available to help you from the first day after your surgery. Quickly regaining strength and decreasing swelling, pain, and fear are all important aspects of your rehabilitation. CHKD has a large team of sports medicine physical therapists ready to support you through your recovery and get you safely back in the game.

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About CHKD Sports Medicine

About CHKD Sports Medicine  CHKD's sports medicine program offers the most comprehensive care for your young athlete. From diagnosis and treatment to customized rehabilitation plans, we specialize in physical therapy and injury prevention programs for active children and teens. Our team is composed of pediatric orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine specialists, physician assistants, certified athletic trainers and pediatric sports medicine physical therapists.