Recovering from an ACL injury

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)
Gaizka Mendieta is the latest star to suffer

Gaizka Mendieta is the latest star to suffer

Medical expert Bevan Ellis talks the Academy through a typical rehabilitation programme for an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Many top athletes will go through an accelerated rehabilitation programme to get them back in action within six months.

It requires intensive physiotherapy which needs to be monitored very closely at every stage.

For a typical person, an ACL injury would normally take between 8-12 months to get back to full fitness.

Phase one (0-2 weeks after surgery)

The knee will be swollen after the operation, so the first job is to reduce the swelling.

After that, the physio will make the patient do a few light exercises like isometric contractions – keeping the leg still but moving the muscles around the knee.

Phase two (2-6 weeks after surgery)

The swelling should have disappeared, but the graft usually weakens around this time.

The physio may have to back off from the rehabilitation programme until the ligament is up to more exercises.

The patient should be walking normally by then.

Phase three (6-12 weeks after surgery)

By this stage, the knee should be getting stronger and able to take more strain.

The patient should be able to go swimming and use a road bike to get the knee back on track, as well as doing more strength exercises.

Phase three (3-6 months)

The patient will have their full range of movement and strength back, so they can start running properly once more.

They should be able to get back to specific drills and training.

Phase four (6-12 months)

The patient should be able to return to playing sport with their surgeon’s approval.