If you have seen our recent videos on our YouTube page about ACL recovery, you know that a good rehab is crucial. So in this post we will tell you the best 10 tips for your ACL rehab. Here we go.
Tip 1: Start your rehab ASAP
The moment your orthopedic surgeon closed your knee with stitches. You started your rehab. And from this moment on, you need to have discipline, motivation and you need to put in the time to rehab your knee the best way possible. So if you start your rehab one week after the surgery, you’re already down 5 to 0. Because if you wait one week, scar tissue is already forming. And this type of tissue needs to be put under tension. So small exercises can already help you with this! Another big reason why to start as soon as possible is because you want to minimize the loss in extension. The second tip will dive deeper into this one.
Tip 2: Knee extension is gold
After your reconstructive surgery, your knee is probably swollen, irritated and painful. And that’s okay, it’s a normal reaction to the procedure you had hours ago. But because of that swelling, your range of motion, so your knee mobility is limited. And you will see that you lose more mobility in the direction of flexion than you lose mobility in the direction of extension, so straightening the knee. And that’s because you have way more flexion than extension. But that 15-20 degrees lack of extension needs to be won back as soon as possible. Because you need that knee extension to gain back your knee stability and control and you need your knee extension to give it rest during standing and walking.
Tip 3: Cycle backwards
So we talked about the swelling in the knee. And that we need to regain your knee extension. But we shouldn’t forget about the knee flexion. Luckily, this mobility comes back somehow on its own. But there will be a moment when you are allowed to ride the stationary bike. And when you step on that bike, you will probably feel that circling the pedals is hard with your operated leg. So the next tip is to cycle backwards. Instead of moving your pedals to the front, try to move the pedals to the back. You will see that it will go way easier. Oh and a side tip, if you’re on the bike, cycle slow, 60 rounds per minute is enough. Because if you go faster than that, your knee can swell up again. So take it slow.
Tip 4: Don’t throw away your crutches too soon
Again, this has everything to do with your knee extension, but also your proprioception. And I hear you asking, what is proprioception. Well proprioception is the ability to control and to know in which position your joint is in space. So if you would close your eyes you should know in which position your joint is and where it is in space. But to have good proprioception, you need full extension in the knee. So if you have a lack of proprioception and you throw away your crutches or you just don’t use them, you can re-injure your knee. So take it easy, make sure you can control your knee before not using your crutches anymore.
Tip 5: Take it easy during months three to six
If your ACL is reconstructed, your new ACL is at that moment stronger than a normal ACL, but it will get weaker by the week, and will hit a bottom around 4 months. After that the ACL will become stronger again, but it takes six to nine months. So make sure that you take it a little bit easier during month three to six. Work on a lot of strength, but try to stay away from movements you can’t really control. Because your ACL is weaker and doesn’t give the best stability to your knee. And on top of that, your muscles aren’t as strong right now so they also can’t control complex movements, causing your ACL to be under more stress and tension.
Tip 6: Don’t try to speed things up
This has everything to do with tip number five. If you try to speed things up, you can harm your knee. Your ACL needs to undergo changes in cell tissue. And this takes time. And your body is working as hard as possible, but you can’t speed up the changing of your tissue. So if you speed things up, you are at greater risk of reinjuring your ACL. And that’s a real waste of time. Because you can’t get back the time you already spent on rehabbing your knee.
Tip 7: Built it up gradually
A full rehab to return to sport can take up to 12 months and maybe even longer. But keep in mind that small progress is also progress. So build it up gradually. If you try to jump, to jump-like exercises instead of doing the strength work first, you will re-injure your knee. So follow the steps, and work on the goals per phase. But take your time, you will thank yourself after you successfully rehabbed your ACL reconstruction.
Tip 8: Find a training partner
This has everything to do with the fact that your rehab will take a long time. And if you find someone who can train with you, you will be more successful in finishing your rehab. But it has also everything to do with the fact that in the later stages you need some external cueing, somebody will point out where to go, when to jump, do some reactive drills or can act as a person to duel with on the field. So tip eight is to find a training partner.
Tip 9: Return to sport, not too soon
It has again a lot to do with the fact that we need to gradually progress our training and rehab. So if you get back on the field after months of rehab, make sure to built up the minutes. Built up the minutes in a training before making some minutes on the field in a game. Don’t do a full game in your first try. And keep in mind, you just finished 10 to 12 months of intense rehab. So take some time to come back onto the field. It would be a shame if you re-injure yourself because you’re not willing to give it four more weeks.
Tip 10: Listen, listen, listen!
A good physio knows when to progress and when to stop. So listen to them. Don’t throw away your crutches if they haven’t said you can, don’t start jumping if they haven’t said you can and don’t step on the field if they haven’t said you can. If they are good, they are trained in rehabbing your ACL the best way possible. so listen to them.
Okay, I hope these 10 tips are helpful in successfully rehabbing your new ACL. Make sure to follow these tips and to listen to your physio and to your knee. But most important, give it time, it will be intense, you will reach a moment where you want to throw in the towel, but keep pushing. You will thank yourself later.
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