An ACL is one of the most dreaded injuries for any athlete. It is a long rehab process that often takes longer than 12 months and even when returning to sport, the re-injury rate is high!
So are there any ways we can make our rehab easier? Well, no, rehab for an ACL is hard, however there are a few things you can do that can make the process move more smoothly with less hiccups!
1 - DO PREHAB BEFORE YOUR SURGERY!
What is Prehab you say? Prehab is essentially 'rehabilitation' done before your surgery. This doesn't involve what you think, it isn't hard strenuous resistance training. Instead it focuses on letting your knee settle post your injury with a bit of strengthening. This generally involves removing or getting rid of as much swelling as possible, restoring your knee's function to somewhat pre-injury levels with full range of motion and strength.
Many people are keen to get surgery done on their knee as quick as possible, however studies have shown slightly delaying surgery and removing swelling can give you better outcomes and doesn't increase your risk of knee osteoarthritis.
2 - YOUR REHAB MAY AND PROBABLY SHOULD GO LONGER THAN 12 MONTHS
Many people believe that your rehab will be 12 months and then you can return to your chosen sport. For most people, this is going to be the likely outcome. However for some, rehab may take longer and you may need more than 12 months to get back to your chosen sport. This is ok and taking longer than 12 months usually has better outcomes compared to those who take less than 12 months.
3 - RESISTANCE TRAINING WILL BE YOUR BEST FRIEND
Heavy resistance training will likely be the bulk of your rehab. Post surgery you will have a period of minimal activity on the injured leg. Thus, your muscles will become weaker. Heavy resistance training will be important to improve your strength significantly so that you can return to your chosen sport or activity.
4 - EVEN WHEN YOU RETURN TO SPORT YOUR REHAB SHOULD CONTINUE AFTER
Just cause you have successfully returned to sport and are playing again doesn't mean you should stop your rehab. Your rehab should continue going on for atleast 6 months. This should consist of your resistance training to continue strength training. But also developing your proprioception and other stability exercises.
5 - PLAN YOUR REHAB IN STAGES AND PERFORM TESTS BEFORE PROGRESSING
Having a developed plan is super important for your ACL Rehab, whilst you will likely have setbacks or even get ahead of your plan. This will ensure your ACL Rehab is relatively smooth. Having it written down and then tracking what you complete is also helpful to ensure you are progressing with each session. Clinical tests are also important to help track how you are going and when you can progress your rehab or return to sport. Having a good selection of tests can give you motivation and something to help track results.
If you're having issues with your ACL Rehab book in to see one of our physiotherapists here to have a look or set up your program.