Good News For Competitive Athletes with ACL Injuries

Good News For Competitive Athletes with ACL Injuries

Recent data demonstrates that competitors returning from a major ACL procedure can exceed their previous results.
— Dr. Bill Sterett

In the past, it wasn’t uncommon to hear an ACL injury referred to as “career-ending.”  Not anymore.  And while you certainly still hear ACL injuries referred to as “season-ending”,  recent evidence and research tells us that you can come back from the injury performing at an even higher level.

It may sound counter-intuitive, but on the U.S. Ski team, we have seen athletes actually improve upon successes after their first major knee injury.

A short time ago, the thought of this would have been unheard of, but recent data demonstrates that competitors returning from an ACL can indeed exceed their previous results.

The Study #ACLINJURIES

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According to a recent study published by the French Alpine Ski Team, higher levels of competitive success were seen in athletes that had torn the ACL during some point of their racing careers. 

Not only that, but the study also indicates the same athletes actually enjoyed longer careers, as well. Check this out:

  • According to the study, 23% of the athletes who had torn their ACL achieved a podium finish during their career.
  • By comparison, the same study says that only 8% of the French athletes that had never torn their ACL achieved a podium finish during their career.
  • Also notable: More than 3 times the amount of podiums were achieved by athletes AFTER the ACL tear than before the ACL tear.

So, as we see, the data demonstrates clearly that an athlete retiring from an ACL injury can not only return to their highest levels of performance, but actually exceed them.

Questions and answers #returningfromACLsurgery

Q: Will I expect a high level of pain from my ACL Injury during my recovery?

A: No. Pain is rarely an issue when it comes to rehabilitation, now that we have minimally invasive techniques to reconstruct the ACL. 

Q: What are the other considerations impacting the timing of my return?

A: As mentioned in previous articles, the timing of your return to sports has to do primarily with the issue of rehabilitation, and partly to do with “mother nature.”

Meaning: we must be patient with the ACL during the “remodel” phase, during which the ligament regains the strength to accept the high loads which are required to play your sport.

Q: Will ACL Injuries Always Be Considered “Season-Ending?"

A: Our biologic enhancement of healing will continue to improve with the advancement of growth factors, PRP and nutrition, and stem cells. As this happens, the time it takes to return to sports after ACL injury will continue to decrease.

But, for the time being, expect to continue to hear the phrase “season-ending injury” thrown out there when an athlete undergoes ACL surgery.

Q: What’s the average time frame for returning from ACL surgery?

A: It really all depends on the individual athlete. Realistically, it may take the ACL up to a year to remodel and return to full strength. However, we often see athletes returning to sports post-rehab as soon as six to nine months.

Not bad, but we are always striving to make advances!

In closing, I want to stress again that for an athlete facing rehabilitation from an ACL tears, it’s perfectly reasonable to expect to return to your previous level of performance— or better!

Dr. Sterett


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