Wellness Wednesday: ACL Tears and Sports


Loudoun County, Va. — The phrase that can strike fear into the hearts of athletes and fans is the dreaded “torn ACL.” Automatically, that athlete is put on the shelf for the season and possibly extending into the next. “6 to 12 month recovery” titles popup on our screens, and we wonder if that athlete will ever be the same. We watch the replay, and questions and thoughts pop into our minds.

“What is an ACL?” “Why does it take so long to come back from an ACL surgery?” “Is that what happened to Robert Griffin III?”

There is a tremendous amount of information available pertaining to the “ACL,” and much of it can be confusing and conflicting. Let us go step-by-step, and see if we can unpack all of it.

What is an ACL?

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament is a ligament that runs from the femur in the upper portion of our leg) to the tibia (located in the lower leg), and is one of the primary passive stabilizers of the knee. This ligament functions to limit forward translation of the tibia on the femur and limit rotational forces. Significant straightening can stress the ligament. The knee relies on passive and active forces to help give it stability, and sadly, the ACL does not get as much help as other ligaments do. The location of this ligament, the lack of active forces assisting it, and the general instability of the knee joint tend to leave it vulnerable to compromise and even rupture.

Why does it take so long to come back from an ACL surgery?

It takes milliseconds to tear an ACL and roughly 1 to 2 hours in surgery to reconstruct it. The athlete is still not back on the field for months though. WHY? Graft (new ACL) healing times vary, but we can safely say that full vascularization doesn’t occur until roughly week 12.

Tissue healing from surgery also takes some time, and battling the subsequent swelling/pain is no easy task. Regaining motion in the knee joint can also take several weeks. The main factors when it comes to rehabilitation from an ACL reconstruction are the loss of muscle mass, a reduction in the speed of fiber firing, hip girdle and lower extremity strength, and functional abilities. This process is grueling and can take many, many months.

How Does Physical Therapy Help?

This is, sadly, a common injury, and recovery outcomes vary considerably. Here at Loudoun Sports Therapy, we treat this injury and many other ailments that affect the knee. Having a skilled team of both physical therapists and athletic tTrainers is certainly a must when rehabilitating from this complicated injury. Proper rehabilitation can set you on track for a faster recovery, and get you back to the sport you love.

Note from our sponsor: If you have experienced an ACL injury or any other sports injury, call our office TODAY at 703-450-4300 to schedule your evaluation and start living pain free again!


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Loudoun Sports Therapy Center is a premier physical therapy clinic. We offer outpatient orthopedic and sports physical therapy as well as specialty programs.

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