What Is The Estimated Partial ACL Tear Recovery Time? That You Need To Know

I remember a conversation I had with a friend who is recovering from surgery. He told me that when he visited his doctor for a check-up, he was so excited to tell him that he could stretch his leg 90-degrees.

But when he did, the doctor was surprised and said: “Is that all you can do after all this time”? It turns out his homemade exercises weren’t getting him where he was supposed to be at that point in the recovery.

We laughed so hard at his experience and I told him that I would find out what he should be doing week by week to get his full leg extension back.

I was amazed at what I discovered about the estimated partial ACL tear recovery time. No wonder his doctor was disappointed.

Anyway, I’d like to share with you what I found out.

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When ACL Tears

ACL Tears

Although injuries to the ACL are often caused by athletic related injuries, they can also be injured in work activities or other accidents. A sudden change in direction such as sidestepping or sudden change in acceleration can also cause the tear.

The most common symptom is the sound of a ‘pop’ in the knee. Swelling then immediately happens to make the knee very unstable. After the injury, you experience a sudden loss of control of the knee.

It takes about two months before someone can even THINK about returning to sports.

About 20% who can return to sports without surgery only have a partial tear. With a partial tear, the remaining fibers are enough to compensate for the partial loss of the ligament. (1)

What To Do After Injury:
The First Six Weeks

If you are diagnosed with a partial tear of the ACL, the first six weeks after injury are critical. Here are some steps you should take immediately after injury to speed up your future recovery: (2)

  • Protect the knee from any weight-bearing by using crutches or a knee immobilizer
  • Use the PRICE method (Pressure, Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation) to control swelling
  • When the swelling decreases, gradually try to regain knee motion
  • Avoid twisting or any other sharp movements
  • Avoid knee stiffness by refraining from placing a pillow under the knee
  • Continue using crutches until you can walk without a limp and pain

Exercises For 1-6 Weeks

#1: Quadriceps Setting

This turns out to be the first exercise you should be doing before you try to extend your knee. My friend jumped directly to knee extensions which explains why it took so long for him to achieve a 90-degree bend.

  • Lie on your back while extending both your knees fully laying them flat on the floor
  • Contract your quadriceps causing your knee to slide towards the thigh muscles in this position
  • Do not tighten the gluteal muscles
  • The motion should straighten your knee
  • Hold the position for five seconds and repeat at least 20 times daily

#2: Heel Slides

This is the next exercise that can help you regain the full extension of the knee.

  • Lie on your back with both legs extended so that they are flat on the ground
  • Slide the heel of your affected knee backward towards your thigh
  • Continue to bend your knee until you feel a stretch in the front of the knee
  • Hold the position for at least 5 seconds and slowly slide your knee back
  • Do at least 20 reps of this exercise every day until you can bend your knee fully

#3: Stationary Bicycle

Stationary Bicycle

Using a stationary bike is another great way to increase knee flexion. In the beginning, you may not be able to pedal all the way around. In this case, pedal back and forth as far as you can. In time, your knee will be able to bend all the way to complete the cycle. Here are some tips to remember when using a stationary bike:

  • Try first completing a complete cycle backward
  • Set the height of the seat so that your knee is extended fully with the heel resting fully at the bottom position
  • You may ride for 10-20 minutes daily without resistance

What To Do After Injury:
6 Weeks And Beyond

After six weeks, it is expected that you have regained almost full motion of the knee. Despite this, your knee may still be unstable and easily collapse if you make rapid movements. (3)

During this period, you ought to visit your doctor so that he can decide whether you need surgery or your knee is stable enough. If your knee is stable enough to continue normal activity, it is recommended you do the following:

  • Use ice for 20 minutes after every workout
  • Use the best knee brace for torn ACL to add support
  • Continue using a stationary bicycle with mild resistance to increase muscle strength
  • Add the following exercises every other day

Exercises For Six Weeks Beyond

#1: Wall Slides

  • Stand against a wall with your feet about 12 inches apart and 6 inches from the wall
  • Lower your hips slowly bending your knees a sliding your back down against the wall
  • Slide down until you reach a 45-degree angle
  • Stay in this position for 5 seconds and return to starting position
  • ​Do up to 15 reps in 3 sets

#2: Chair Squat

  • Prepare a sturdy chair for this exercise
  • Lower your buttocks as if you were about to sit on the chair
  • When you are nearing the chair, instead of sitting, return to standing position
  • Make sure your head is kept over your feet during this exercise
  • You may slowly upgrade this workout by adding dumbbells starting with 3 pounds
  • Do up to 15 reps of 3 sets

After eight weeks from your injury, you may also add exercises such as leg presses, resisted hamstring curls, and other weight training. However, if you have a partially torn ACL, it is recommended that you stay away from the knee extension machine.

Conclusion

Generally speaking, it takes up to up to six weeks before you will regain full motion of your knee. From this time forward, you will need to be careful with sudden movements of your knee. If you feel that your knee is unstable at any time, immediately stop that exercises and do something less difficult.

After six weeks, it is also safe to start jogging preferably uphill. Stay away from downhill trails or angled treadmills.

If you still want to practice running after your surgery, you could find more detail in this article.

I’m so happy with the detailed information I provide for my friend. I know that if he follows these guidelines, he will be back to his normal routine in no time.

  • Did you learn something new in this article?
  • Have you experienced an ACL tear? 
  • How did your recovery progress?
  • What would you like to advice others who are going through the same situation?

I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Also, make sure to share this information with family and friends.