If you participate in physically active sports, you may already know that knee injuries are common. In particular, an anterior cruciate ligament tear is especially common and often requires ACL surgery to reconstruct that portion of the knee. In most cases, the tear won’t heal naturally, so a surgeon will have to use soft tissue grafts to repair the ligament. As you might imagine, a lengthy recovery time follows this type of procedure. Failing to follow the proper aftercare instructions provided by your surgeon can adversely affect your recovery time.
The First Two Weeks of Recovery
You’ll need plenty of rest immediately following your ACL surgery. Although you can leave the treatment center after the procedure, you will need someone to help you get home, since you’ll be unable to drive. Additionally, most people can’t return to work within these first two weeks. Especially if you have a physically demanding job, you should expect to be out of work for several weeks. You will also have to take special care of your leg, which means keeping it dressed in clean bandages. You may have to change the bandages a few times each day during these first few weeks. You should also keep your leg propped up, so the calf or ankle is level with the hip. This will help keep swelling at a minimum.
Although your knee will be painful, it’s important to exercise the leg each day to prevent blood clots from forming. Your surgeon will provide you with the exercises you should do and will likely recommend doing quad sets each day to keep the muscles limber and pliant. You may also be given a prescription for pain medication.
The Next Two to Four Weeks
During this period, you should be moving around and putting more weight on the knee. You will likely be outfitted with a knee brace at this point, so you can be more mobile. By the second or third week, you should also begin seeing a physical therapist.
Two to Six Months of Recovery
You should expect to be engaged in a physical therapy program for at least two months, although it’s not uncommon to continue physical therapy for up to six months. The duration of your program will depend on how long it takes for you to regain stability in the knee and rebuild the muscles in that leg. There are several different types of physical therapy programs, but your doctor will help you decide on the program that’s best suited for your situation.
The Signs That Your Healing is Atypical
Some patients do develop complications in recovery, including an infection of the surgery site. Some indications that you’re not healing as expected include:
- Blood-soaked bandages
- Pus leaking from the incision site
- Pain and/or swelling of the calf
- High fever reaching 101 degrees or higher
- Pain that isn’t alleviated by medication
If you do experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor will be able to determine if you’re suffering from an infection, or if something else is affecting your recovery. Proper treatment will help you get back on track with your recovery process.
Schedule Your Appointment
If you have experienced a sports injury, getting proper treatment as soon as possible is essential to a full recovery. Dr. Thomas Hackett is an experienced and trusted orthopedic surgeon who can assess your condition and help you get the treatment you need. Contact Dr. Hackett’s office to schedule an appointment, so you can get the care you need to heal, recover, and return to the playing field.