Best 5 Exercises after an ACL Injury (Grade I or II)

Many factors contribute to the stability of your knee; however, the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is primarily responsible for preventing excessive movement of the tibia and femur. The ACL helps to stabilise knee movements including rotation and forward and backward motion. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a component of the knee's support mechanism, which also includes muscles and other ligaments.

ACL injuries are common in the athletic population and can be detrimental to your career. There is a high incidence of injuries among female athletes, which frequently result in lengthy recovery periods and protracted rehabilitation. The mechanism of injury occurs most frequently without contact, as a result of landing from a jump, lateral cutting movements with twisting, which are common in football and hockey. In addition, direct contact, which occurs when an object or person sustains a direct blow to the knee, and indirect contact, which occurs when force is applied to another body part and then transferred to the knee, are both considered knee injuries. These movements may exceed the ACL's range of motion, causing it to rupture. Falling is a problem, especially in sports such as skiing.

ACLs can also tear when an athlete is tired or fatigued. You need good awareness of your body, and proprioception. Being tired may cause you to lose focus on your stability, and the leg can give way, tearing the ACL.

If you have been unlucky enough to rupture your ACL, it is characterised by an audible pop and intense knee pain. Your knee may feel unstable, and you may be unable to place your full body weight on the affected leg. Depending on the severity of the injury, oedema, decreased range of motion, and tenderness around the knee are common symptoms.

Risk factors of sustaining an ACL injury

  • Sustaining a previous ACL injury.
  • Poor conditioning (weak leg strength).
  • Poor fitting footwear.
  • Playing on artificial surfaces.
  • Anatomical differences (e.g. females have different pelvic structures which can increase risks).
  • Playing in sports that involve jumping, twisting and a sudden change of direction
  • High impact sports such as rugby or football.

An ACL injury should not be taking lightly, it has potential to limit your progression in your chosen sport. You should seek physiotherapy advice and assessment at Surrey Physio as soon as possible to explore your options.

Surgical reconstruction of the damaged ligament is the most common treatment for ACL ruptures. During reconstruction, the ACL ligament is replaced with a tendon harvested from the medial hamstrings or patellar tendon. In comparison to stitching the damaged ACL back together, it is now the gold standard for ensuring stability and reducing re-rupture rates. You will be required to wear a restrictive knee brace for several weeks to allow the surgical site to heal. Once the weight bearing and brace restrictions have been lifted, you will be able to engage in intensive physiotherapy.

Physiotherapy is an essential component of the recovery process for patients with an acute ACL injury, regardless of whether surgery is performed or not. Physiotherapy can assist patients in regaining range of motion, developing strength and stability, and avoiding further injury. Physiotherapy can also help patients manage pain and swelling, as well as reduce the risk of complications such as joint stiffness and muscle loss.

At Surrey Physio, we offer a comprehensive physiotherapy service for patients with acute ACL ruptures. Our team of experienced physiotherapists works closely with each patient to develop a personalised treatment plan that addresses their unique needs and goals. We use a variety of techniques and modalities, including manual therapy, exercise therapy, and therapeutic ultrasound, to help patients regain function and return to their normal activities as quickly and safely as possible.

Surrey Physio is a highly reputable physiotherapy clinic that specialises in the treatment of sports injuries such as ACL ruptures. Our team of experienced physiotherapists are dedicated to helping athletes of all levels recover from their injuries and return to peak performance. Surrey Physio uses a holistic approach to treatment, focusing on the individual needs of each patient to develop a customised treatment plan.

Please try our 5 exercises for an acute ACL injury

Apply ice to reduce inflammation

Apply an ice pack or frozen peas to your knee. Make sure you wrap it in a thin towel so its not too cold. Use this to reduce pain and inflammation. You may also find it useful to elevate the leg to further reduce swelling.

Crutches - how to walk if you cannot weight bear on one leg

Place the crutches in front of you, and then move your weaker limb forward, then bear all your weight down through the crutches and move your stronger unaffected limb forward. Repeat. This is an excellent method of walking if you cannot put any weight through one leg.

Knee bend using a ball or foam roller

Sit on a chair or Swiss ball, and place the sole of your foot on a medicine ball or foam roller. Roll the ball/roller in front of you and back again. If you don't have a foam roller or medicine ball, you can use a football or other small ball.

How to do an Eccentric Hamstring Curl Single Leg

Lie down on your back, and bend one knee. Drag your heel along the floor towards your buttocks, pushing your heel into the floor. This creates an eccentric contraction of the hamstring muscle (back of the thigh).

VMO Inner range quadriceps sitting

Sit on the floor, and place a rolled-up towel under your knee. Tighten your thigh (quadriceps) muscle and lift your heel. You should be pressing your knee against the towel. As your leg straightens, it does not fully lift off the floor (only your foot lifts off the floor). Slowly return to the start position.

If you have recently experienced an acute ACL injury, it is important to seek prompt assessment and attention and begin physiotherapy as soon as possible. Delaying treatment can prolong your recovery time and increase the risk of further injury. With the help of a skilled physiotherapist, you can take the first steps towards a full recovery and get back to doing what you love.

In summary, an acute ACL tears are not a common sports injury, but they do unfortunately happen and they can have significant consequences for an athlete. Athletes who participate in high-impact sports such as rugby, football, skiing and hockey are at the greatest risk for this type of injury. Physiotherapy plays a critical role in the treatment and rehabilitation of an ACL rupture, helping athletes to restore function to the knee joint and prevent further injury. If you are in need of physiotherapy for an ACL rupture, consider contacting Surrey Physio for expert care and treatment.

(Therapists reading this page, these videos are provided by Rehab My Patient – the best exercise prescription software for therapists to prescribe exercises If you are a patient needing advice, call Surrey Physio to book a telephone/video consultation with one of our expert physios or osteopaths, or book in face-to-face for an appointment. You can call us on 0208 685 6930 or book online by clicking the link at the top of the page).