ACL Tear Facts

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears continue to be a prevalent injury across the country. Some of the latest data shows that there are over 100,000 tears in the United States per year. About 80% of these tears are from a non-contact injury. So if you are reading this and you or someone you know tore their ACL, what should you do? While many will wait around to get an MRI and then meet with the surgeon, there are plenty of proactive things you can do to help set your body up for success. We are going to discuss some basic things that many athletes or people struggle with when it comes to dealing with an ACL tear prior to surgery and what should be done to help you in the long run. 

Muscle Atrophy

One of the best ways to improve outcomes and also reduce future issues down the road is to work on getting stronger before surgery. While a lot of focus after ACL surgery is to improve range of motion and strength, being stronger before surgery with great range of motion will lead to better outcomes after surgery as well. Muscle atrophy (when a muscle gets smaller) is very common both before and after surgery. The majority of people experience what is called “arthrogenic muscular inhibition.” This is a fancy way of saying that your knee sustained a trauma (ACL reconstruction surgery) and your brain is trying to figure out why. The brain turns into fight or flight mode and wants you to stop squeezing your muscles so much. This is the opposite of what we want to have happen. If you have been working on getting strong and have become a master of your exercises then your brain will be better equipped to improve your ability for the muscles around the thigh to accelerate the process. 

What Is Prehab?

If you have trouble with your knee range of motion after surgery, it could potentially cause you to compensate with basic tasks. This could lead to increased pain and delay progress after surgery. Pre-operative range of motion measurements will mimic post-operative range of motion measurements. If you are lacking motion prior to surgery, then the road to recovery might be take some more steps to get things under control. Prehabilitation will prepare you for what you will need to abide by immediately after surgery.  It will give you an understanding for how to hit the landmarks you need so you can hit the ground running after your ACL reconstruction. 

Prehabilitation is a vital way to assess other modifiable risk factors related to an ACL reconstruction such as body mechanics and how your body moves in space. Understanding these factors can help us target ways to reduce the risk of something like this from happening again. If we can prepare the engine (your body) prior to surgery we will reduce the risk of an ACL tear in the future. Some examples of this would be working on lunges with weight to get stronger and having a trained eye give you feedback with regards to how your hip, knee and ankle move during a lunge. This will help you understand strengthening concepts and what we want to see after surgery to decrease your risk of future injury.

Prehabilitation before surgery is one of the best things you can do to invest in your long term athletic goals and possibly reduce your risk of tearing your ACL in the future. Understanding the concepts behind ACL rehabilitation and what to expect after surgery will allow you to put yourself in the best position for success.

Exercises To Start With




Tearing your ACL is never an ideal situation. However, there are plenty of things you can do prior to surgery to best set you up for success. Starting with the basics that we discussed from an exercise standpoint before surgery will yield a much better result both in the short term and in the future. If you have any questions with regards to ACL tears, recovery time, and expectations, leave a message for us below!