"It seems like rehab it taking forever...I just want to play again!
If you are currently going through ACL rehabilitation, and you are in or around month 4 post-op, you can't help but read that first line and understand exactly what I am talking about.
After doing countless bridges, squats, lunges, and fire hydrants you can't help but think about how far you have come... and the journey ahead.
It is beneficial to look back and realize that just 4 months ago you were in a brace, using crutches, and just trying to sleep through the night without pain. Now, you are most likely pain free and feeling like your knee is "OK".
You probably are now running longer distances, 5-20 minutes per outing, and not needing to ice as frequently or stretch as much to keep your knee at full range of motion. It feels nice to have a bit more freedom to exercise without all the recovery stuff afterwards.
To just work up a real sweat again from running is exhilarating...bet you never thought you would say that (remember when conditioning was punishment!)
I guess the point I am trying to make here is that your perspective is now changed forever. You now have something that very few other athletes have, something that will drive you beyond that which you thought possible, something you can't teach or learn, you now have your "WHY".
Now more than ever you realize that you lost something when you got injured. You realize that you lost the opportunity to physically test yourself and push yourself to the limits just to prove to yourself that you have what it takes.
Most athletes chase after a trophy, accolades, or records thinking that getting the prize is all that matters...when in reality the passion and fulfillment is in the journey.
By competing within yourself the only person that can set a limit on what you can achieve is YOU.
Yes, it may seem daunting that you are only in month 4 of ACL rehab, and yes there is going to be hard times ahead both mentally and physically but if you harness the power of the journey you can achieve great things.
My ACL Story...
Goals Of Month 4 ACL Rehab
The main goals of month 4 are:
- Improve running form, speed, and distance
- Increase quadriceps, hip, and calf strength
- Add in power workouts
- Begin agility training
Most athletes can begin running around 12 weeks post-op which means by 16 weeks you should be running between 5-20 minutes per session. It is important to return to running slowly to ensure proper form including shock absorption and power generation.
Running with poor shock absorption will increase the pressure at the cartilage under the knee cap and place greater strain on the joint itself. This can commonly result in increased knee swelling and delays in the rehab process. Be sure to get a running assessment from your PT who can help you with running re-training to get the form perfect.
Strength and Power
Now that you have built a solid strength base, over the first 3 months, you are now ready to start heavier lifting workouts. This is often the time to begin Olympic lifts such as cleans and deadlifts. These multi-joint exercises are great for improving muscle develop on a more global level preparing you for come complex movements such as cutting and jumping.
Again, be sure to consult with your PT about adding in these workouts and progress the weight on a set schedule to ensure growth each week.
Finally being able to perform "sports" movements feels awesome. Now, you will start agility training at 25% or so of your normal game speed. Learning the basics of movements such as lunges, lateral shuffles, cutting, and deceleration is vital. These movements are a part of most sports and place a higher demand on the ACL itself.
You will be practicing these movement for the next months and building speed and quickness.
Talk To An ACL PT Specialist
If you or someone you know would like to speak with a physical therapist who specializes in ACL rehabilitation (and who has been through ACL rehab himself) and you live in the Bay Area please call this number 408-784-7167. You can also email your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you enjoyed my ACL story. Know your "why" and chase after it with all you got!
Physical Therapist serving San Jose, Los Gatos, Almaden, Campbell