Whatever sport or activity you take part in, a pop from the knee is a sound no-one wants to hear. As most footballers, runners, cyclists, gymnasts know, that pop means that there has been a rupture of the ACL. A tear of the ACL doesn't make a sound but is no less painful and will derail playing and training for some months.
Tyrone Kon, who is one of the top physiotherapists at London's Boost Physio has helped numerous sports people get back on their feet after an ACL injury and has some top tips on how to get back on track after an ACL injury.
Tyrone is based at the Boost Physio branch in the Virgin Active Gym in Cricklewood, so he has access to all the gym equipment needed to work with clients to get them back onto the pitch, the track or gym.
"There are two different ways to treat an ACL injury. The first is surgical, which can take up to a year to recover from and the second is conservatively. Treating an ACL injury conservatively means a carefully tailored, three part, physiotherapy programme that depending on the severity of your injury, could get you back to full fitness in around five to six months", says Tyrone.
Before any treatment starts get a correct diagnosis, go and see your GP or a good physio. Often a physio will be able to give you a more definitive diagnosis for an ACL injury because they have specific tests to find out whether it is a tear or a rupture.
"Pushing your rehab too quickly can not only set-back your recovery, which can really affect your mood. Your physio should help you not only get better physically but also help you overcome fear of re-injury by giving you the confidence that your rehab is on track by not letting you progress through the three stages of rehab until you are ready. They will also show you how to exercise non injured parts so you don't lose overall fitness", says Tyrone.
Tyrone's top tips for getting over an ACL injury include:
The first thing you must do is rest for 72 hours, and RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) to relieve swelling and start the healing process. Don't keep completely still, try and move around but don't put too much pressure on the injury, be sensible and move with caution. It's important to remember that an x-ray cannot spot an ACL rupture or tear, only an MRI can do that and the NHS will not send you for an MRI for an ACL injury.
The first stage of rehab is to start regaining movement, this the time to start seeing a physiotherapist and to start the early stage of the treatment programme. A static bike will help regain range of motion as well as start to get quadriceps and hamstring muscle activation. Bosu balls can really help with regaining balance at this stage too.
Gym equipment, like the leg press and hamstring curl machine can be used for the middle stage of rehab. Your physio will be able to assess the strength of the non-injured leg and then will devise a strengthening programme that can be monitored and progressed every two to three weeks. This will enable your physio to get an objective measure of the strength in the non-injured leg.
At the same time, it is important to improve cardiovascular fitness, single leg rowing is a great way to improve the strength of the injured leg and of course improve overall cardio fitness.
The third stage of recovery is getting ready for return to full fitness. Getting clients to do tasks that reminds them of how they injured their knee in the first place is key. Fear avoidance is common and it is important at this stage that people start practising balancing, and jumping. Building up the muscles around the ligament can sometimes take over the ligament which can really help with recovery.
Post recovery recommendations: it is important to continue with sports specific exercises, strengthening the core, the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and calves. your calf.
"Remember, don't go looking for exercises on the internet for treatment, you can end up doing more harm than good. It is important to have a proper assessment and let a physio work out the best rehab plan for you", say Tyrone.
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