The road to recovery after an athlete tears his or her Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) can be a long, arduous process. Recovery happens away from a field or court, where an athlete feels most comfortable.
Before the last steps of recovery happen—in what is often a year-long process from operating table to game time— it is important that an athlete replicates all the movements that he or she uses in their respective sport to return to the game.
Not doing so leaves a person at risk for a recurrent injury to the knee according to Dan Murray, rehabilitation manager of the Center for Orthopedics, Spine and Sports Medicine.
“The most important part of ACL construction rehab is the final phase,” Murray said. “Too many times in my career I've seen ACL revisions or second tears (on the opposite side) and its hard enough for the athlete to have to go through this process once, let alone twice. A lot of times that comes down to not guiding the athlete all the way back to where they need to be. Within that final phase of rehab it's really important, from an athletic perspective, to mimic the patient's sport as closely as possible with the activities that we put them through. “
When a patient sees the progress and feels normal movement returning while performing sports-specific exericses without worrying about the knee giving out, it's encouraging from both a physical and mental standpoint. Clearing those last mental hurdles allows for a smoother transition to the game, and that all starts with a good rehab program, according to Murray.
“We have to make sure that we can visually see the person go through that and make sure that the positions that they are putting their knee and hip and ankle in are not going to leave them vulnerable to a re-tear,” Murray said. “We let them feel that it's OK to make those cuts or do those movements while they are still under the umbrella of our care.”
Cohasset’s Nick Hall, a star student-athlete, is currently near the final phases of his rehab. Nick underwent surgery for a torn ACL with orthopedic surgeon Michael Geary, MD, South Shore Orthopedics, and received physical therapy with Dan Murray. Read Hall’s story by clicking here and watch his road to recovery below.