How Long Until I Can Play Sports Again After I Tore My ACL?

How Long Until I Can Play Sports Again After I Tore My ACL?

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are feared by athletes of all levels and are, unfortunately, the most common lower-body injury in sports. The ACL is a critical facilitator of movement. With an ACL tear, your knee loses flexibility and stability. In most cases, the recovery process is lengthy and can leave you wondering how long it will take to return to your favorite sport. At New York Sports Medicine Institute, our team will work with you throughout the injury recovery process to help you back to your sport. Continue reading to discover the return to play timeline after an ACL tear. 

ACL Tears

The ACL is a flexible and robust ligament behind the kneecap, connecting the thigh and shin bones. ACL tears typically occur during sports requiring a lot of twisting and turning and sudden changes in direction, jumping, and landing. In addition to these movements, other factors associated with an increased risk of ACL injuries include:

  • Improper body mechanics. 
  • Poor physical condition. 
  • Ill-fitting footwear. 
  • Playing on artificial or uneven terrain. 
  • Using poorly adjusted sports equipment. 

The classic symptom of an ACL tear is an audible pop or popping sensation in the knee. Soon after the onset of the injury, most people experience severe pain and knee instability. Immediate care is crucial to reducing pain. 

ACL Reconstruction Surgery

In most cases, ACL reconstruction surgery is recommended for serious athletes or those who have suffered multiple injuries in the knee. ACL reconstruction surgery involves replacing the torn ligament with a tendon from another part of the patient’s knee or a donor. This surgery is typically an outpatient procedure since our orthopedic surgeon only needs to create a small incision in the knee to complete the process. As with any surgery, ACL reconstruction has associated risks. Some of the most commonly related risks are stiffness, knee pain, or poor healing of the tendon graft. Because of this, most patients will need to perform physical therapy before and after the surgery. Physical therapy before ACL reconstruction aims to reduce swelling and pain, improve the range of motion in the knee, and strengthen the supporting muscles. 

Recovery from ACL Reconstruction

When you’re a dedicated athlete, you’ll likely want to return to your previous performance levels almost immediately after surgery. However, a patient with a torn ACL should expect a recovery period that lasts between six to nine months before returning to pre-injury activity levels. Recovering athletes need to achieve a balance between regaining range of motion and strength in their injured knee and being too eager and facing setbacks. Athletes need to follow our surgeon’s instructions to manage pain and swelling after the procedure. Our team will determine the proper post-surgical recovery program. We may recommend a knee brace or crutches to minimize the risk of prematurely putting too much weight on the injured knee. Working with a sports physical therapist after surgery can also help athletes learn the proper form for performing therapeutic exercises designed to improve mobility and strength. While an ACL tear can be a scary experience, this injury doesn’t signify the end of an athlete’s career. If an athlete undergoes reconstruction, basic function and stability are restored within a few weeks of the procedure. Working with an experienced orthopedic surgeon and physical therapist can help you safely get back in action within six to nine months. 

Contact Us 

At New York Sports Medicine Institute, our experienced staff is dedicated to helping you return to your sport. We provide the highest level of orthopedic care and sports-specific rehabilitation to get you back on the field as soon as possible. We also strive to help athletes prevent future injuries and perform at their best. To learn more about ACL tear recovery or request an appointment, be sure to contact our team today!