Any or all of these critical shock absorbers and weight bearers can be damaged on the playing field whether you are 14 or 40. Sharp pivots, sudden stops, falls, and improper landings from a jump can cause a knee twisting, and hyperextension and lower leg deceleration, which can cause the ACL to pop or partially tear. When you tear your ACL you know it; typically there is a pop noise and usually you cannot bear weight on the leg. Pain and swelling follow. Since the ACL is a knee stabilizer, an injury will cause the knee to give out when you try to walk.
U.S. Pharmacist reports, “One of the most feared sports and work injuries is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which has ended or derailed the careers of numerous high-profile athletes.” The pain from a torn ACL can be debilitating but surgery with physical therapy or physical therapy alone in some cases can help you recover.
When Seth tore his ACL, his doctor suggested going to Ability Rehabilitation. He states, “I’ve been coming to Ability to get better so I can get into playing soccer again.”
How Can a Physical Therapist Help my ACL Tear?
After an ACL injury you will likely be seen by an orthopedic specialist who will diagnose and design a treatment plan for your leg. Many people choose to undergo ACL surgery but some can avoid surgery by going to a physical therapist and changing their activities. No matter your decision, physical therapy is an important part of recovering.
A physical therapist can help restore function to the knee. They can help you with swelling and pain, restore mobility and range of motion, and improve the strength of the muscles surrounding the knee to help provide additional support to the injured knee.
Some orthopedic surgeons prefer that their surgery candidates see a physical therapist before undergoing ACL reconstruction. Post-surgical patients also spend time in physical therapy to regain function and strength.
Physical therapists work with ACL injury patients to help them regain movement of the knee. They help you slowly put more weight on the leg and help you with exercises to strengthen and restore function. They may use electrical stimulation to strengthen the quadriceps and work with you so you can fully extend the leg. After surgery, therapists help patients move from walking with crutches to regaining a more normal use of the limb. Whether you have surgery or not, the physical therapist will likely give you exercises to do at home.
Seth commented that Ability Rehabilitation, “Will get you where you need to be—fast—and it will be painless.”
Can I Return to Sports After an ACL Tear?
It’s the question asked by every athlete, from students to the pros, “When can I play again?” The answer is, “It depends.” So many factors play into your ability to return to the field of play, including how severely you were injured.
The British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM) studied this issue and determined that somewhere between 65 to 88% of athletes are able to return to their sporting activities within the first year. For athletes that opted out of ACL surgery the return to play rate was 19% to 82%. From this study, it’s clear that returning to sports after an ACL tear is not only possible, but probable. However, a logical question is how long these athletes could continue to play after an ACL injury? Did an ACL tear shorten their time on the field? The BJSM reviewed the data and found that six years after the tear, 58% of the ACL surgery patients and 82% of the non-surgical patients were still playing.
As a young soccer athlete, Seth’s goal, when coming to Ability Rehabilitation was to get back on the field. He had some intense pain in his knee that the team worked closely with him on. Part of the issue when working through this kind of leg pain, is the fear that you’ll reinjure the leg. The process of physical therapy puts the patient in situations where they are able to gradually gain more confidence even as they physically strengthen the injured leg.
Seth said, “I was hesitant at first to go too hard and tear it again, but they just worked me through it. They were really nice about it and they just got me moving again.”
He did well during his time at Ability Rehabilitation and he serves as a good model for other student athletes seeking to return to the sports they enjoy.
“It is a good place to get better,” he said.