So think you’ve hurt your anterior cruciate ligament? Not sure?
Okay, can you place your entire weight on the affected leg without it losing stability?
If the answer is yes, get someone to help you with a Lachman’s test. What’s that? Well it’s a special test used by therapists to try and confirm an ACL injury.
Now it’s not a diagnosis, but it’s pretty accurate in terms of determining whether or not your ACL has in fact suffered some physical damage.
And this is the starting point of any successful rehabilitation program, knowing what’s wrong and figuring out to fix it.
Luckily for you, we’ve done just that! But before we get into that, the first question we need an answer to is...
Now, if your answer is no, go get a scan. Seriously, go see your physician and get a scan done as soon as possible. Trust me, you’ll thank us later!
Depending on the results of your scan you have two options? If the doctor’s prognosis requires you to get surgery, our advice is do it sooner rather than later. Prolonging surgery significantly decreases the odds of successful recovery from ACL injuries.
If the doctor confirms you do not need surgical intervention, seek the help of your local PT (physical therapist). They will facilitate your rehabilitation process and aid in your successful recovery.
Okay, let’s say you don’t have access to a PT or similar facilities. That’s where we come in, so come back and read this article!
Again, the following is not aimed at the patients who have undergone significant surgical interventions such as reconstructive surgeries and or ACL graft procedures. For those clients we urged you to seek the assistance of a registered physical therapist.
This article is for all the people out there who have suffered an acute light to moderate injury and or have chronic knee instability due to a previous injury.
What To Do After a Positive Lachman’s Test?
The Lachman’s test confirms a damaged ACL. The extent of the damage can only be identified by comparing your individual symptoms to those of the different grades of ACL injuries.
Note: Please circle back to our article on ACL injuries to get clued up on the different types of ACL injuries and their individual symptoms.
The game plan is as follows:
How to Rehabilitate Your Anterior Cruciate Ligament
Disclaimer, this next part of this article will merely be advice and set of guidelines for you to follow during your rehabilitation process. This isn’t a full rehab program or a complete guide to get you back on track. This is simply an accelerated set of cliff notes aimed at providing you with a foundation in order to implement your own individualized rehab program.
Okay, so back to why you’re all here reading this article. Your rehab program MUST contain the following elements i.e. This non-negotiable:
Restoring Stability of the Knee Joint (Day 1-21 post injury)
As discussed in our initial article on the ACL ligament and its function, the ACL plays a vital role in maintaining stability at your knee. Now when the ACL’s integrity is compromised the stability is directly affected.
This takes priority during the first phase of rehabilitation as it is during this time that you are most at risk of re-injuring yourself.
The key here is to regain neuromuscular control and to restore full range of motion using non-weight bearing exercises.
Your three go to exercises:
These exercises serve as a foundational basis for restoring your stability and increase your range of motion.
Reactivate and Restore Muscular Strength (Day 21-60 post injury)
Atrophy due to inactivity is a huge risk after an ACL injury. The surrounding muscular tissues form an integral part of the stability and functioning of the knee joint. Therefore, regaining muscular strength is a vital component of rehabilitation.
Your go to exercises:
Your focus here is to stimulate muscular activity in the quadriceps, hamstrings and calf muscles. The introduction of load is a positive stimulus that will ensure muscular activation. The combination of these exercises will positively strengthen and protect the knee joint.
Regain Functionality and Prevent Re-Injury (Day 60-90 post injury)
This is where the more advanced movements come into play. Resistance training, balance and proprioception work take priority in this stage of your rehab.
Your go to exercises:
The aim here is to get the knee joint stronger and to start practicing single leg loading. Again, hamstrings and quadricep strengthening remain crucial goals for this stage of the recovery process.
Please note that these timelines are extremely conservative, as we believe in taking it slow and playing it safe. The risk of re-injuring an ACL is quite high, so it is important that you protect yourself against that!
After the 90 days...
Confidence. That’s it. No specific sport drills, techniques or fancy protocols. Regain your confidence in your knee. I’ve read numerous papers on rehabilitation and recovery and all they seem to focus on is the clinical aspects. No one seems to be bothered to address the psychosomatic aspects of injury recovery.
And the biggest part of that is getting your confidence back. I cannot stress this enough, so many reinjuries have occurred because an athlete or person didn’t trust themselves enough.
How do you know your confidence is back? Well, the easiest metric to use is conscious and subconscious mobility. If you don’t need to think about a movement and it’s almost second nature, then you should be about 95% there.
Again, this may differ from person to person, but regardless confidence remains a universal trait required for optimal performance.
Yes, we know that this is far from a clinical protocol. But that was never the aim of this series of articles. There are enough scientific papers on this topic. But what we decided to do is to take a topic as complex as ACL injuries, and simplify in such a manner that whoever is reading this article will hopefully sleep a little easier knowing that he or she can and will get through this injury.