Get Back in the Game Faster: Recovering From an ACL Sports Injury

Feb 14, 2024
Get Back in the Game Faster: Recovering From an ACL Sports Injury

When you injure the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) in your knee, getting the right care is important, especially if you plan on returning to your sport. Read to learn more about ACL injury recovery.

Competing in sports helps you stay in shape but also puts pressure and stress on vulnerable parts of your body, like your knee joints. Sports medicine focuses on what athletes need, addressing sports injuries like ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) strains and tears and keeping all your joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments ready for action.

At Burlingame Orthopedics, our team of experts, led by board-certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Richard Han, provides full sports medicine support to patients 12 years old and older. ACL injuries are some of the most common sports injuries we treat from our Burlingame, California, location.

It’s essential to get the right treatment for ACL injuries, or you risk lasting instability in your knee joint that could sideline you long-term. Here’s what you need to know about recovering from this type of sports injury.

When you injure or tear your ACL

Your knee joint relies on four ligaments to stabilize directional movement. Your ACL is located behind your kneecap, found at the center of your knee. ACL injuries are one of the most common issues with knee joint function. You’re more likely to injure your ACL if your movement changes direction suddenly with force or if you jump or land incorrectly.

When experiencing an ACL injury, most people realize there’s a problem right away. You may hear a distinct popping sound and likely experience immediate pain and loss of knee joint function. After an ACL injury, you’ll likely experience pain, swelling, joint tenderness, discomfort when moving your knee joint, and an inability to bear weight on the affected limb.

Treating your ACL injury

ACL injuries vary in severity. The ligament can be sprained through overstretching. Or, under pressure, your ACL can partially or fully tear. Full ACL tears are the most serious type of ACL injury. No matter how severe you think your injury might be, plan on getting checked out as soon as you notice symptoms of an ACL injury.

At Burlingame Orthopedics, we start your ACL injury treatment with a comprehensive evaluation of your condition and medical history. We use medical imaging technology and physical examination to determine the type and severity of your ACL injury. Then, we work with you on a treatment plan that considers your recovery needs and future athletic plans.

If you’ve experienced an ACL tear, you may have to decide whether to undergo ACL repair surgery. If you’re okay with keeping physical activity light or moderate after your recovery, you may be able to avoid surgery, relying on bracing and physical therapy while your knee joint restabilizes. If you want to return to your sport, surgery may be needed.

ACL injury recovery

Your recovery varies based on the type and seriousness of your ACL injury. If you’re only dealing with a sprain, a week or two of rest, icing therapy, and pain management should have you back on your feet. 

However, ACL tears can mean more extensive recovery and may include recovery from ACL surgery. ACL surgery is typically performed sometime after the initial injury, giving you time to address swelling and other issues with physical therapy treatment.

If you need ACL surgery, full recovery can take 6-12 months. If you choose to opt out of surgery, you can regain your full range of motion in 3-4 weeks and return to your new normal in knee strength within 3-4 months. Remember that non-surgical recovery may mean that you need to adjust your lifestyle going forward.

For answers to all your ACL and sports injury questions, contact the sports medicine experts at  Burlingame Orthopedics. Call now to schedule your appointment, or request an appointment online today.