What is ACL Reconstruction Surgery?
The ACL Is a crucial tissue in the knee joint. ACL Reconstruction surgery is usually required to repair a complete ACL tear especially in athletes, young active individuals, athletes, and those who wish to remain highly active.
ACL reconstruction surgery generally involves replacing the torn ACL with a graft, which acts as a scaffold for a new ligament to grow on. This graft can be taken from the patient’s own body (an autograft), often from the patellar tendon (a part of the knee) or the hamstring tendon. Alternatively, the graft can be taken from a donor (an allograft).
ACL reconstruction is usually performed arthroscopically. In this minimally invasive procedure, Dr. Reynolds makes small incisions around the knee and inserts a tiny camera (an arthroscope) to see inside the joint. Surgical tools are then used to remove the torn ligament and replace it with the graft. The graft is secured in place with hardware such as screws or other devices to hold it in the correct position. Over time, the graft will start to heal and develop into a new ACL.
The final goal of rehabilitation after ACL reconstruction is to return the athlete to per-injury levels as quickly as possible without exposing the athlete to undue risk for reinjury. Dr. Reynolds will decide on timing to return to sport will be based on the assessment of potential risks of each patient.
Physical therapy is an essential part of recovery after an ACL reconstruction surgery. The goal of the therapy is to regain knee strength and function, while also working towards returning to previous activity levels. Rehabilitation optimizes patient satisfaction, knee stability and return to sport while also preventing rerupture.
In the first few weeks the focus is on reducing swelling and pain, restoring knee range of motion, and re-establishing muscle control. This may involve gentle motion exercises, strength exercises for the quadriceps (thigh muscles), and balance activities. Using crutches and a knee brace is common during the early stages to protect the graft.
For the next three months as healing progresses, the focus shifts to regaining full range of motion, improving strength, and enhancing stability. Exercises become more challenging and may include squats, lunges, and step-ups, as well as low-impact cardiovascular activities such as cycling or using an elliptical machine.
From 3-6 months the emphasis is on regaining full strength and agility. Advanced strengthening exercises, plyometrics (jump training), and sport-specific drills are often introduced. Running may also be started around this time if approved by the physical therapist and surgeon.
The average time for return to sports is 6 to 12 months, some individuals may take longer.
Before returning to sports, patients typically need to pass functional tests that assess strength, agility, and stability. Even after being cleared to play, patients should continue strengthening exercises to protect the knee and help prevent future injuries.