How Long Is An ACL Surgery Recovery?

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How Long Is An ACL Surgery Recovery?

If you have scheduled a procedure to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), you may be asking yourself, “how long will I be out of my normal routine?” While this is an important question, there’s more to ACL surgery recovery than getting back on your feet. Our team at New York Sports Medicine Institute would like to discuss the recovery timeline for this procedure and provide some rehabilitation tips to help you make a swift and speedy recovery. Continue reading to learn more. 

What Is ACL Surgery?

ACL surgery is performed to replace or repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in your knee. The ACL is one of the two major ligaments that cross the center of the knee and help stabilize the joint. ACL injuries typically occur during activities that put stress on the knee, such as the following:

  • Stopping suddenly. 
  • Awkward landing from a jump. 
  • Cutting maneuvers. 
  • Direct blow to the knee. 

Patients who are relatively inactive, play sports that involve less stress on the knees, or those who engage in recreational activities or moderate exercise may recover from their ACL injury after a course of physical therapy. However, here are some situations where ACL surgery is usually recommended:

  • Multiple ligaments are injured. 
  • You wish to continue in your competitive sport. 
  • You have a torn meniscus that also requires repair. 
  • Your ACL injury is causing your knee to buckle. 
  • You are young. 


The thought of undergoing ACL surgery can be daunting, but knowing what to expect during your ACL surgery can help you feel more prepared. This is an outpatient procedure, so a lengthy hospital stay is not required. ACL surgery is typically performed under general anesthesia arthroscopically. During the procedure, your surgeon will perform a tendon graft. This involves removing the damaged ligament and replacing it with a segment of a tendon. The surgeon will secure the graft to the bones with screws.

ACL Surgery Recovery

It’s essential to keep in mind that every individual is different, therefore any medical guidelines provided by your physician should be followed. Here is a timeline for ACL surgery recovery for an average patient:

First Two Weeks

The first two weeks after ACL surgery are critical since this is when your body is most vulnerable. Surgery is a traumatic event for your ligaments, muscles, and other tissues, so the body may respond with inflammation. After surgery, you can experience swelling, pain, and excess fluid around the knee joint. Rehabilitation begins right after surgery, and our team may have you perform daily exercises to support your recovery. Here are some rehabilitation tips to try at home:

  • Elevate the affected leg, and apply ice every few hours. 
  • Lay your leg over a chair or edge of a bed for knee flexion. 
  • Put a prop under your heel when straight for knee extension. 

2-6 Weeks After Surgery

During this time, you will stop using crutches and start bearing weight on the knee. Activity should still be relatively limited as your tissues are still actively healing. To support your knee, you may wear a special knee brace to prevent it from moving too far in any direction. Rehabilitation with physical therapy may also begin at this time:

  • Light walking exercises for up to 20-minute intervals. 
  • Leg strengthening exercises like leg presses, squats, and hamstring curls. 
  • Elliptical or stationary bike training. 

1-6 Months After Surgery

After the first month, you will continue physical therapy until you reach your individual rehabilitation goals. Your knee should return to its full range of motion, and you will regain stability, balance, and leg control. Under the supervision of our team, you can begin your return to normal activities and even sports. The average recovery time for ACL surgery can take about six months but it can be longer. 

Contact Us

At New York Sports Medicine Institute, our goal is to get our patients back to full functionality after their ACL surgery. Our team will work closely with you to craft a rehab program and help you make a full recovery. Contact us today to learn more!