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Don't let an old knee injury hold you back!

acl dr allison knee pain mcl meniscus unhappytriad Feb 14, 2023

Have you had ACL surgery (or any other knee surgery for that matter) and found your knee has never been the same? 

Unfortunately, there are many people that have fallen through the cracks of the medical system after rehabbing from a knee surgery. The rehab process often ends when the patient reaches “good enough.” They are then released for full participation in any activity. These same patients suffer with flare ups of knee stiffness, pain, weakness, lack of trust, etc. for years to come. 

I know this, because I was one of those people released before my rehab was fully complete. Ten years ago, I experienced an injury known as the “Unhappy Triad” in the sports medicine world. That’s an ACL, MCL, and meniscus tear all at the same time. Following the traditional rehabilitation process, I was able to return to sport after 5 months. As a rule, that is probably about 7 months sooner than it should have been. Unfortunately, that is now the norm for this kind of surgery. 

I actually feel relieved, because many people in my situation reinjure their knee or tear the ACL on the other side and I did not. I didn’t walk away unscathed though. For years after, I suffered from knee pain and joint stiffness. Whatsmore, I had a DEXA scan (provides measurements of Body Fat, Muscle Mass, and Bone Health) eight YEARS following my injury and it showed my surgical leg still lacked 3 POUNDS of muscle mass compared to my non-surgical leg. 

Research has continued to demonstrate a surprisingly low rate of return to prior level of function and level of sports participation following an ACL reconstruction. In part, this is due to a lack of consistency and agreement among healthcare professionals on rehabilitation protocols, as well as, inconsistency on the criteria required to return individuals to sport. On top of that, in nearly all cases, health insurance companies don’t allow enough physical therapy visits for patients to fully heal their knee after surgery. 

Many, if not all, individuals are cleared to return to full activity participation with major underlying deficits in strength, neuromuscular control, movement mechanics, and even psychological trust (conscience or unconscious) of the surgical leg. This is the reason for the alarmingly high rate of re-injury of that knee and high risk of tearing the opposite ACL. A large study revealed that 1 in 5 people experienced a re-injury or new injury of the opposite knee. That’s a 20% risk of re-injury and is much higher than it should be. 

But, there is still hope! A performance-based physical therapy clinic like ours (shameless plug 😜) comes in to help. Regardless of if your knee surgery was 6 months, 5 years, or 10 years ago, there is still so much that can be done to improve those remaining deficits and get you back to enjoying all the activities you love pain free.

With the new knowledge I gained throughout PT school and guidance from physical therapists I trust, I have been able to eliminate all remaining knee symptoms. I am now participating in activities like CrossFit, running marathons, and Olympic Lifting - and you can too!

If you or someone you know is struggling with a knee that “just isn’t the same'', we can help! Call or text us for a complimentary 20 minute discovery call.