7 ACL Reconstruction Recovery Fears

If you are about to have ACL reconstruction surgery than you are likely struggling with some of these common recovery fears. Many of these fears are valid while some are likely not, but they all deserve your attention.  Below I will go over the7 most common fears someone has about recovering from ACL reconstruction surgery.

7. “I will be off work for too long after my ACL reconstruction”

Most people, regardless of their profession, need to be able to be able to walk around for their job. Therefore this fear is very common.

In my two surgeries I was able to walk 1-2 weeks after surgery but the physio and doctor both recommended I not return to work(mostly office based construction management) for 4 weeks.

If you are having surgery and are fearful that you will be off work for a long time it is understandable. I recommend you read my tips on when can you walk after surgery.

6. “ACL surgery is going to hurt!”

During the surgery you feel nothing. You go to sleep then wake up and your knee has been fixed. However, the pain generally starts within the first hour after you wake up. The nurse in recovery will continuously be checking you making sure your pain and blood pressure are under control. Once they determine you are safe for discharge they will let you go to wherever you will be staying for the night.

If you follow some simple pain management tips you should be able to control the pain level to below a 5 but this will depend on the extend of your surgery. 7 Tips To Manage Pain After ACL Surgery

5. “The ACL Surgery Scars Will Be Ugly”

This isn’t a concern I really had but I understand those of you that are concerned. Supposedly there are creams that you can put on your skin, specifically Mederma. The ACL surgery recovery blog YesKneeCan wrote a great post about healing her ACL scars (Heal ACL Scars).

Luckily for her the picture below is of my scars 16 months after surgery.

ACL Reconstruction Surgery Scar

My Knee 16 Months After ACL Surgery

Maybe I should have used Mederma or another cream to help reduce the scars.





4. “I am afraid of Weight Gain After ACL Surgery”

This is another very common fear. There are a lot of different stories on here about people both gaining and losing weight after surgery.

Weight gain after ACL surgery was a concern for me on my second surgery so I took some steps to make sure that I eat healthy after surgery.

My thinking before the surgery, based on what I learned from the first, was I know I will be around the house bored and when I am bored I tend to eat unhealthy snack food. Here is what I did and it resulted in me actually loosing 5 pounds in the first weeks after surgery(some of the weight would be muscle mass).

  1. Collect all junk snack food in the house and throw it out or store it in a difficult to reach place
  2. Buy healthy snacks, vegetables and fruit
  3. Eat a lot of fiber for breakfast! (see pain med side effects!)
  4. Pre Make Healthy Meals
  5. Continue to eat meals on a routine

Hopefully some of these tips will help you with your fear of gaining weight after ACL surgery.

3. “After my ACL reconstruction I won’t be able to return to the sports I love”

A fear I definitely had/have, this applies to people not just concerned they wont be able to return to the sport now but that in the future they wont be able to play because their knee is damaged.

This fear of not being able to do the activities I love because of my 2 ACL reconstructions on my knee is still with me. The only thing I can think of doing to address this fear is doing my ACL rehab exercises.

If anyone has any great tips on addressing this fear I would enjoy hearing them!

2. “I wont wake up from knee surgery”

I understand this fear and had to put a little effort into fighting it but unfortunately I don’t have any really good tips. Basically I just kept telling myself I was being irrational and everything was going to be fine. Also the knee is a long way from the heart and brain so everything will be fine!

1. “I am afraid I will Re-Tear my ACL after I get it reconstructed”

This is another fear that I continue to struggle with. We put all this effort, time and money into getting our ACL fixed and one abrupt movement can make it all for not!

This fear is valid and here is what I am doing to make sure I don’t re-tear my ACL…

  1. Don’t rush back into sports too soon
  2. Do all your phsyio
  3. Start slow into any new activity
  4. Listen to your knee

So that’s it, those are the most common ACL surgery fears that people have.

What about you…do you share these fears or have other ones?

The Top 5 At Home Exercises
I did that helped get me walking 4 days after surgery

Click Here to see the exercises


  1. Great post Jon, For me my biggest fear is not being able to play Soccer again.

    I tore my ACL and got reconstructive surgery 1 month ago. I really want to be able to play soccer again. I am 16 and live for it do you think I will be able to?

  2. Jon Haver says:

    Carly, you are young, only 16, so I am confident that if you do all your exercises and ONLY return to soccer when you are ready then I have no doubt you will be able to play soccer competitively again.

    Read about how many female soccer players tear their ACL and can come back from it.. http://www.aclsurgeryrecovery.net/28/acl-tear/

  3. Hi jon!
    Nice 1! I did my acl reconstruction last 8 month and now I was recover and start going to gym.

    I am very positive that I will play back my fav sport badminton for god sake!

  4. Hi Jon! I tore my right ACL and had the patella graft surgery about a month ago. I tore it doing a twisting skill in gymnastics. I am going to PT and they say I am doing good, except for my extension and my quads are a little weak, though it seems that no matter how hard I work at it my quad is still weak and I still can’t extend it all the way.

    I am 15, and gymnastics is my life. I compete competitively in a high level, and I’m worried that I wont be able to return to it. Do you think my knee will be able to handle returning to it?

    Also, this post was very helpful thanks!

  5. Lynn DeBarge says:

    Jon, My daughter’s (who is 22 and in college) ACL surgery is Friday March 24. She thinks she will be able to return to school that Monday without any of her pain meds. She also thinks that she will be able to do her normal photography assignments that following week and be perfectly okay. The doctor has okayed her for school on Monday, but there is a lot of walking just to get to class. I have tried to tell her that she will have too much pain to sit in class, but she does not want to hear that since she does not want to miss any class time. What can you tell me to help prepare her so she does not hurt herself further in her rush back to a normal life? What should I do to protect her from herself?

    Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!

  6. Jon Haver says:

    HI Allison, be patient with hard work and patience you can return to competition.

    In fact Olympic Gold Medalist Shawn Johnson is doing that right now…see her story recovering from a torn ACL here…http://espn.go.com/espnw/athletes-life/7531987/shawn-johnson-rehabbing-eyeing-london

    Hope this helps!

  7. Jon Haver says:

    Hi Lynn, it will likely take care of itself…if she is in pain she will not go to class. Actually going to class isnt too bad its being away from icing and elevating the knee that will be the problem.

    My advice is to have her acknowledge that she doesnt know what kind of pain she is going to be in(no one does since everyone reacts differently) and suggest she at least takes the safe route and prepares to not be able to go to class for 1 week. This way if she is in pain then she wont also feel like she HAS to go and may make the safer/smarter choice of staying in.

    Let me know how her recovery goes!

  8. I wanted to see if I could get any advise about going back into soccer. I first tore my ACL in January of 2010 and when I first went to the doctor, they told me all I had was a sprained knee and I could try playing soccer in a week. A week later the second I got into the soccer field my knee twisted again. So in true soccer player fashion, I waited a month before I attempted playing again. Then I went to play and my knee twisted again. So then I thought well I will take a year off and rehab it since it probably is just weak from the sprain. One year later, I tried playing soccer and I felt my knee about to twist again so I dove out of it and avoided retwisting my knee. I went to a new doctor and they told me my ACL had completely disappeared, so I had surgery on it. It has been nine months since my surgery and I have recovered very quickly from my surgery. I didn’t need any pain medication, I was able to walk a week after surgery with minimal help with my crutches. I graduated from my PT a couple of months ago early because I recovered so quickly and I have been constantly working on my knee and have started running. But I can’t seem to get myself to play anything that can compromise my ACL. Any advise?

  9. I am a big skateboarder. skateboarding is a very high impact sport, and is hard on the joints/body in particular your lower body. Im 21 years old and work out 4-5 days a week maintaining a fit lifestyle… will I be able to skateboard at a high level in time again?

  10. Hi Jon, It’s day 3 after my ACL hammy reconstruction surgery and thankfully I don’t have much pain. I’m a little worried because yesterday when I stood up and put some weight on my braced leg I heard and felt a small pop on the back of my knee where the hamstring comes down. It hurt for a minute but not bad and no extra swelling… did I do something bad to it? My hamstring has been very tender all along, but I’m assuming that’s from the surgery. I’m just hoping I didn’t compromise the new graph by putting weight on my leg too quickly!

  11. No need to reply to me Jon. It’s now day 5 and my hamstring is much better. It “popped” another time and pulled painfully several more times but now it feels great. No tenderness to the touch or pain. Day 5 and I’m walking without crutches gingerly. I’m thinking maybe the hamstring just had to readjust itself. My original injury was over 4 months ago, torn ACL and badly torn meniscus, so I wasn’t able to straighten my knee all that time, and maybe my hamstring was affected. Doc said to keep my brace on 24/7 until I see him(10 days from surgery) and at no time am I allowed to bend my knee until I see him. I think this might have to do with my meniscus repair, who knows. All I know is that so far it feels great and I’m so glad to be able to walk without crutches… hated those things. PS, I’m a 48 year old athletic woman, tore ACL playing platform tennis.

  12. Hi Maylen – Glad to hear your knee is doing better! Sounds like your recovery is going well. I would be interested in hearing what the doctor thinks about the hamstring “pop” you heard was. Good luck with the rest of your recovery!

  13. Thanks for writing this. I’m 32 and tore my right ACL when i agreed to play a charity football match for a friend…. usually play indoors so this 11 aside out door match was out of the ordinary. At first AnE and my GP said it was a meniscus injury, the consultant was away and when i say his registrar he too thought it was meniscus as it didn’t really hurt.

    The MRI revealed it was my ACL.

    Getting married in Aug, my stag is in June so the consultant moved my op…his assistant called me on Tuesday and told me it was on Friday. Out of Hospital on the Sat and here we are on Tuesday.

    I’ve not been smart with the pain killers, nights ruined with sleep…now it hurts lol Learned something very useful here.

    I’m really worried about the graft failing. I have no desire to play football every again…love it but its not fair for me to takes such a risk as it effects my wife to be. She has been an angel, looking after me in a way i could ask or expect. Gets up early to cook and place all i need in arms reach for me till she gets home from work.

    I’ve not been icing it but intend to start today.

  14. Hey jon, im nervous of tearing my ACl. i play football and i do track/field and those are both speed/contact sports. Should i be concerned?

  15. Thanks for setting up and maintaining such a great website, Jon; it kept me going in the autumn, when I was recovering from arthroscopy. I could do with some advice, if anyone can help – I’m in a bit of a quandry, as the debris from my snapped ACL has been removed, and, because my knee shows no signs (when tested) of NOT having an ACL, my consultant prefers not to reconstruct. Due to on-going niggles, I had an MRI scan, which showed a small tear in my cartillage which has happened since the arthroscopy (along with a couple of other minor irritations, which can hopefully be sorted with physio). My immediate reaction was that I prefer not to have surgery, but now wondering if I should, at very least, have cartillage sorted. And if that is done, whether I should then bite the bullet and have the reconstruction (I have stability, steady balance, decent procreation, but knee feels a little odd still, grinds slightly, and bending is not a fluid movement – esp in the pool). Can anyone advise upon what to expect if I don’t deal with the tear in my cartillage, and also if I don’t have the reconstruction. I’m 46, and no longer do any ‘twisty-turny’ sports (other than dancing when I’ve had a few drinks!).
    Finally, for anyone reading this and about to have keyhole surgery, I had an experience no-one had warned me about, and because I wasn’t expecting it, it totally freaked me out. When trying to tighten the ‘dormant’ muscles in my knee within a week of my arthroscopy, I heard some gurgling sounds, like a loud tummy rumble, coming from my knee joint. This turned out to be the surgical fluid (used to inflate the knee so that camera and implements can be manoeuvred within the joint) which hasn’t yet been absorbed into the body…so, nothing to worry about!
    I’d be grateful for any advice to help in my decisions…

  16. I tore my acl last yea, and I’m going to have surgery on April 24. Thanks for the all the info, I can’t wait to go back and play soccer again.


  17. Hello jon, Had my acl repaired with my hamstring march 20 2012, week after i got dvt in my calf same leg as acl, ouch so this put me back a couple of weeks with my acl exercises, but now 6 weeks on, and dvt has gone and acl exercises are in full swing, feels like a new knee already, squats, and exercise bike mostly seem to be doing the trick,fingers crossed everything will be ok. Doctor has told me another 3 months before im normal again!!, seems along way of even though i feel great now. Good website. Cheers Gary. United kingdom.

  18. Im 3 weeks into recovery after ACL reconstruction. At the end of the second week I started going down to the pool and limping around the shallow end. Everyday I noticed improvement. So then I started more exercises in the pool. This week I started doing 40 squats in the shallow end and other exercises to build the muscle in my knee. A week ago I couldn’t lift my leg to get out of bed and now I’m walking with a cane and when I’m in my house I can walk without it. I want to start riding bike this week but I don’t know if it’s too soon. I am at 115 degrees bending and truly believe I can give the 130 by the end of this week. I’m 24 but I don’t know if I’m pushing it too hard.