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Here's What You Can Expect when Returning to Sports after an ACL Injury

A knee injury that impacts your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) may not require surgery, but proper rehabilitation of the knee joint is vital. Without appropriate care, you could end up with a severely damaged joint and significant loss of mobility. Almost 20% of osteoarthritis cases involve a patient with an old ACL injury, so get your knee seen to as soon as possible if you’re hurt.

At the Institute for Arthroscopy & Sports Medicine in San Francisco, California, Dr. Jeffrey Halbrecht frequently treats patients with ACL injuries. He can help you get back to the sports activities you love with careful treatment and monitored rehabilitation.

The basics behind ACL tears

Four main ligaments support the knee:

The ACL is the most vulnerable and most likely to be injured of the four ligaments due to its location. It runs diagonally across the front surface of the knee, to keep the tibia from sliding in front of the femur. It’s also a significant point of support during knee rotation, meaning that an ACL injury can completely destabilize your knee.  

ACL tears are often caused by a sudden change in direction at a high speed or by a forceful impact, and are common in high-contact sports like football, or in action sports like skiing. The tear is often accompanied by an audible “pop” and extreme, instant pain followed by collapse.  

If you’ve suffered an ACL injury, treatment depends on severity. For a partial tear, Dr. Halbrecht may recommend R.I.C.E. (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) followed up with a comprehensive rehabilitative and physical therapy program. Multiple tears or a significant tear that detaches the ligament from the knee or rips it in half may require arthroscopic surgery to repair.  

Returning to sports after an ACL injury

You should only exercise after an ACL injury if Dr. Halbrecht gives his approval. If you are too active too soon with a torn ACL, you can reinjure yourself or worsen your condition. If you have arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn ACL, expect the following from your recovery:

Dr. Halbrecht monitors you closely throughout your recovery.


If you think you have an ACL injury, contact our office immediately at 415-230-3667 or book an appointment online.

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