A torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of the most devastating injuries a professional athlete can endure. The average time table for an athlete’s recovery from a torn ACL ranges between 6 and 9 months, but can vary depending on each individual athlete’s recovery. Advances in modern medicine make a torn ACL a much more treatable injury than it has been in years past, but extreme precaution must be taken in an athlete’s road back from such an injury. Once an athlete has chosen to either have surgery on their torn ACL or try to heal it through physical therapy, they will have to go through a rigorous rehab program to regain strength in their knees and legs as well as to return to their overall fitness level before the injury. Take a look below as we show you five ways to rehab a torn ACL.
Swimming is one of the best ways for an athlete to rehab from a torn ACL. The best exercises to do in a pool are running and flutter kicking with no additional arm strokes. Both exercises are great for bringing an athlete’s cardio-vascular health back to where it was before the injury and improving range of motion in the knee. Running inside of the pool is an athlete’s first step towards being able to jog on a track. An athlete can practice correct running form and improve their lung capacity without causing additional stress on the knee due to the buoyant force of water. Flutter kicking improves the range of motion in an injured knee with minimal risk of re-aggravating the surgically repaired ACL.
4. Stationary Bike
A stationary bike is great for recovering from a torn ACL. When an athlete tears an ACL they have extreme discomfort whenever placing their body weight on to their knee. Riding a stationary bike places most of that body weight on to the bike, making the activity one that is relatively painless. The act of pedaling on the bike will increase the range of motion in the knee and will increase cardio-vascular health. Most stationary bikes also include an option to increase and decrease resistance felt while pedaling. This option will help users track their progress throughout their multiple weeks of rehab.
3. Assisted and Light Body Weight Exercises
Assisted and light body weight exercises are great for regaining lower body and core strength that is lost during periods of inactivity after a torn ACL. Some great exercises include wall squats (pushing your back against the wall and squatting by lowering your hips, holding for five seconds, then slowing standing up straight), bridges (laying flat on your back, bending your knees, and pushing your hips upward to create a small tent like opening below your body for five seconds), and step-ups (light stairmaster workout). Assisted and light body weight exercises should not be done until at least three weeks after surgery to repair a torn ACL. Doing these exercises before that point could cause a significant amount of pain and the ACL could be re-torn.
Stretching is key to not only recovering from a torn ACL, but also preventing other injuries. An athlete will be on the shelf for months after their torn ACL. Once they are healthy enough to return to full athletic activity, each an every athlete will likely want to go 100% on their first day. This is understandable, but should only be done with the right precautions. If an athlete ignored stretching while rehabbing their ACL, other parts of their body including the hamstring and groin area will be at risk for injury upon their return to athletics. Following a regular stretching routine during your ACL rehab will ensure that once an athlete returns to action, they will be able to stay on the playing field for as long as possible.
1. Wobble Board
Wobble board exercises are great for keeping an athlete’s quad muscles in shape while recovering from an ACL as well as improving balance. Wobble boards will not only aid an athlete in their rehab from a torn ACL, but they can also help improve performance in competition. Having a solid base and center of gravity are key in succeeding in all sports. The wobble board will both help an athlete recover faster and have an advantage come game day/fight night.
The exercises posted above will undoubtedly help in recover from most ACL tears, but every athlete should consult with their doctor before beginning their rehab routine. The most important thing for an athlete to do in recovery from an ACL tear is to listen to their body. If you feel discomfort in your knee, you shouldn’t do that exercise or do it at a lower resistance. Always be vocal about your pains and aches and qualified medical professionals will help you recover as effectively and as quickly as possible.
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