An Active Approach to ACLs
Philadelphia Eagles fans have become all too familiar with ACL injuries this NFL season. First it was quarterback Carson Wentz last December, then linebacker Paul Worrilow went down with an ACL injury during spring workouts, and most recently, running back Jay Ajayi suffered a similar injury.
Although these injuries used to end football players’ careers, Carson Wentz serves as an excellent example of what can happen after a successful ACL surgery. Wentz was back on the football field within 9.5 months. Most professional athletes take up to a year to return to competition at such a high level. That’s no longer the case with ACL surgeries today.
ACL injuries are common among professional and recreational athletes of all ages. An ACL injury can occur when you plant your foot and suddenly change direction. Most people feel a “pop,” and lose their range of motion due to swelling in the knee. Surprisingly, research has shown that female athletes have a higher chance of tearing their ACL.
Active Recovery Protocol
Our doctors utilize an active recovery protocol that allows patients to get back to most routine, everyday activities within 6-7 weeks. Our accelerated recovery program focuses on the patient regaining their range of motion, followed by gradual strengthening at a quick, but reasonable pace.
Patients often wear a knee brace and use crutches for the first few weeks, but as their strength and mobility return, they can begin bearing weight and walking without crutches. In fact, most patients start their physical therapy sessions as soon as their stiches come out.
According to Dr. Doug Boylan:
- “‘Pre-hab’ can be just as important as the post-surgery rehab, even though it might seem a bit counter-intuitive to work on moving the knee after a major injury. Although many patients are nervous about any kind of movement, the reality is that gently working to regain at least 90 degrees in range of motion before surgery is beneficial to the outcome.”
Studies have shown that if the surgery is done too quickly, before the patient has regained their range of motion, the recovery period can become much longer. It seems like a paradox, but actually waiting to do the surgery and letting the swelling and inflammation decrease while regaining the 90 degrees in range of motion can ultimately speed up the time it takes for the patient to get back to normal.
A 3-4 week waiting period is common for most patients. It is also important to note that operating too soon can put the patient at a higher risk of the surgery resulting in scar tissue that causes stiffness in the knee.
Here’s what two local physical therapists who chose BCOS to perform their surgeries had to say about our active recovery protocol:
- “As a physical therapist, I knew that the rehab would be critical to my recovery,” says Scott B. “But the pre-work that Dr. Boylan gave me before surgery gave me a head start. It definitely helped me and I’ve seen firsthand how his patients always seem to do so much better because of the program he prescribes before and after surgery.”
- “I’ve seen a lot of ACLs by a lot of different surgeons and when I needed the surgery myself, I never considered anyone else: I knew right away that Dr. Boylan was the surgeon I wanted,” says Brian K.
We Care About Our Patients
At Bucks County Orthopedic Specialists, we understand that a torn ACL can be a devastating injury, especially for a competitive athlete. Our board certified sport medicine surgeons all have significant experience in caring for active patients who compete at all levels, including professional and Olympic athletes. Dr. Douglas Boylan, part of the orthopedic team that cared for athletes in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, notes, “we understand the drive to get back to the playing field, and that’s why we bring all the best practices and techniques from all around the country to help our patients ‘get back in the game’ as quickly and safely as possible.”
We know that there are many choices for ACL surgeries and other orthopedic needs, and that’s why we combine the most advanced techniques with an unwavering focus on patient care throughout the surgical experience. Our doctors take personal interest in all of our patients, and we are here to guide you through the entire continuum of care with your surgery:
- “Besides seeing how well his patients recover after surgery, as a PT, I also really appreciate the fact that Dr. Boylan and the docs at BCOS really seem to care about their patients. They work closely with us to make sure the patients are getting the best therapy; with the other institutions, it’s often impossible to get the surgeons on the phone,” says Scott B.