Does ACL Surgery Affect Runners Speed?

ACL reconstructive surgery involves using a graft from another part of your body. This part is usually the hamstring tendon, in the back of your thigh, or patellar tendon, which connects your kneecap and shin bone.

The patellar tendon has been called the “golden choice”. It is the same length as the ACL. Surgeons remove the middle third of it along with part of the bone at each end. This allows them to attach bone where the ACL goes. This “bone to bone” healing is preferable because it heals better and stronger. The problem with this choice is that there can be pain in the front of the knee which lasts for years, especially when doing things like kneeling. This is partly because of the pieces of bone which are removed.

The hamstring tendon is attached without the use of bone. This makes the graft more difficult to attach but causes less pain. It does take longer to become rigid and heal completely. You can read a story about ACL recovery. Click here

There is also an “allograft” option, where the tissue comes from a donor, usually a cadaver. This can be a faster and less difficult surgery, since no tissue needs to be removed from you. It also can make recovery less painful because not as much of your body needs to heal. These grafts are not as strong, but hamstring and patellar tendons are stronger than an ACL anyways. Allografts sometimes cause complications because foreign tissue is being put into your body. An “autograft” is when tissue is used from your own body and there is less risk of rejection or infection.

 


Post-surgery, special treadmills are used for rehabilitation: underwater treadmills and anti-gravity treadmills. Both allow you to regain your range of motion and strengthen muscles without the impact of regular running. 12-16 weeks after your surgery you can usually start running again, as long as your surgeon approves it. It is best not to run more than three days per week though. You also need to make sure you are strengthening the muscles not only around your kneecap but also your hip and pelvis. Quadriceps, hamstrings, core muscles (obliques), lower back, and thigh muscles all work together to keep your knee from shifting or rotating in a harmful way.

Because the hamstring graft takes longer to heal, people who are anxious to return to aggressive sports might not prefer this option. The surgeon probably won’t recommend it either if he or she does not trust the person to rest and rehab. Some people also complain of constant pulls and strains after having a hamstring graft. The hamstring will be compromised after the surgery. The key to regaining range of motion and strength is proper rehabilitation. People have boasted full recovery with every type of ACL graft, but they all say it took time. The choice basically comes down to whether you would be better able to deal with knee pain or a weakened hamstring in the case that you do not fully recover or take a long time to do so.



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

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