Getting Active Again After an ACL Tear

Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a primary ligament in your knee joint, connecting your thigh bone (femur) to your shin bone (tibia) and helping to keep your knee strong and stable. Without a healthy ACL, your knee becomes weak and unstable — and you’ll be left sitting on the sidelines. 

Whether you’re a competitive athlete or a recreational outdoors enthusiast, a torn ACL can be a real bummer. It may feel like you’ll never be active again. Fortunately, that’s not the case. With the help of an orthopedic expert like Dr. James Lee, Jr. at Orange Orthopaedic Associates, it’s possible to enjoy your favorite activities again.

From Dr. Lee, here are three big things to keep in mind as you begin your post-ACL tear journey.

1. You may not even need surgery. 

First things first: Dr. Lee determines whether your ACL tear is complete or partial. A complete tear almost always requires surgery, but partial tears usually don’t. If you have a partial ACL tear, you may improve with nonsurgical treatment methods such as physical therapy. 

Dr. Lee grades ACL tears by severity. A grade 1 tear means that your ACL became overstretched, but not torn. As long as your knee retained its stability, you probably won’t need surgery for a grade 1 tear. 

A grade 2 tear means that your ACL is partially damaged and your knee shows some instability. Surgery is often, but not always, required for grade 2 tears. 

The most severe type, a grade 3 tear, means that your ACL is completely torn and your knee is heavily damaged. Grade 3 tears almost always require surgery. 

2. It’s a long — but hopeful — road.

Even if you do need surgery to reconstruct your ACL, new methods and technologies in orthopedic surgery have raised the bar when it comes to returning to activities after an ACL tear. The ultimate goal is to regain both stability and flexibility in your knee — and get you back on the field, court, or trails without pain. 

Your road to recovery depends on how severe your injury was, but you can expect some general milestones: 

3. Caution is key. 

Even after you’re cleared to return to activity by Dr. Lee and your physical therapist, exercise caution in the first weeks and months following your ACL rehabilitation. Even if you feel just fine, you stand the risk of re-injuring your ACL, especially in those vulnerable first couple of months.  

Ease back into your activities, and make it a point to pay close attention to any pain or even extremely minor symptoms, and tell Dr. Lee and your physical therapist what’s going on. 

Be mindful of emotional symptoms, too. Returning to activity after a serious injury can feel discouraging at times, so remember to take it easy on yourself. You made it this far, after all! 

If you think you may have torn your ACL, or just need help managing a prior injury, request an appointment online or call our clinic in West Orange, New Jersey. 

You Might Also Enjoy...

What Is Recovery Like After Hip Replacement Surgery?

Patients who undergo hip replacement surgery can achieve life-changing outcomes, but a lot happens between the time they leave the hospital and return to normal activities. Find out what’s involved in recovering from this major procedure.

Myths and Facts About PRP Therapy for Injuries

If you’re confused about the benefits of using platelet-rich plasma (PRP) therapy for injuries, read on. We’ll clarify some common myths about PRP and set the record straight about the benefits of this innovative treatment.

How to Tell If You are Suffering From a Rotator Cuff Injury

If you’ve suffered a rotator cuff injury, you know it’s painful. You may have a dull ache in your shoulder or even a sharp, shooting pain. But the worst part might be that a rotator cuff injury can keep you from your favorite sleeping position.

What You Should Know About Arthroscopic Knee Surgery

Nagging knee pain can have an incredibly widespread impact on your life, but the thought of surgery may leave you cold. With arthroscopy, however, we can remedy the problem, quickly and easily, using advanced minimally invasive techniques.