You hear a “popping” sound coming from your knee and it immediately starts to hurt. Within a few minutes your knee is swollen and it hurts to walk on it.
You think you might have hurt your anterior cruciate ligament (“ACL”), so the first thing to do is probably go to a sports therapist or doctor who has experience in dealing with sports related injuries, and verify that you do in fact have an ACL injury.
The knee is a very complex joint, so it’s possible that the injury is something else, even if some of the symptoms would otherwise just an ACL tear.
Assuming you do have an injury, what do you do now?
The next step is to determine how serious of an injury you have. ACL injuries can range from very small tears in the ACL, to complete tears or detachment from the upper or lower ACL terminus.
Depending on the nature of the injury you’re dealing with, your healing and rehabilitation process can vary greatly. Your rehabilitation must be properly matched to the scope of your injury.
If you have a minor ACL injury, you should be able to heal yourself following a standard “RICE” treatment protocol, meaning that you:
Rest your knee and not engage in any strenuous training activity;
Ice your knee several times a day to reduce any swelling that may still exist;
Compression therapy for the entire knee joint; and
Elevating the knee to further help reduce swelling.
More I have an ACL Injury – Whats Next? Details
If your ACL injury is more serious, then you might be forced to undergo ACL repair or reconstructive surgery. After surgery, you can expect a significantly longer recovery period, and won’t be able to get by with just RICE treatment.
Instead you’ll probably need to undergo a comprehensive rehabilitation program. In order to manage and follow a rehabilitation program you’ll need to seek professional assistance.
Your rehabilitation program might take up to a year, depending on the severity of your injury. A standard rehabilitation program will begin roughly a week or two after surgery.
The first stage will be working on your knee’s range of motion. Surgery will create scar tissue that needs to be broken down; otherwise it can be an additional hurdle to full recovery.
Increasingly harder and more stressful activities will be added to your rehabilitation program over time. Your own perception of your knee’s strength isn’t a reliable indicator of where you are in the rehabilitation progression.
An experienced physical therapist knows how to evaluate the strength and health of a reconstructed knee, and how to adjust your rehabilitation program to match your progression.
Going too fast in your rehabilitation is a serious threat to be guarded against. Putting too much stress on your knee before it’s adequately recovered can set your rehabilitation schedule back weeks or even months.
The goal of rehabilitation is to get yourself back to your former levels of training – rather than simply get through the rehabilitation itself – and using the services of a professional therapist can help you achieve this goal.