Syracuse Area Health – Strasburger Orthopaedics

How Dr. Strasburger Repairs a Torn ACL

For the active individual, few injuries are as daunting as a torn Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). Whether on the soccer field, basketball court, or even ski slope, the sudden pivot or hyperextension can spell months of sidelined activity. Yet, in our modern era, with advances in orthopaedic surgery and rehab, many athletes have found their way back to top form. In our latest article, we discuss the intricate phases of an ACL injury, from the initial tear to the surgical repair and the challenging road of recovery.

Understanding the Anterior Cruciate Ligament and How it is Injured

The ACL is one of the four major ligaments located within the knee joint. It plays a critical role in the function and stability of the knee, restraining excessive forward movement of the tibia relative to the femur, as well as in the control of rotational movements. An ACL injury can occur through a variety of mechanisms. Often, it’s associated with a sudden change in direction, an abrupt stop, or the famous “unlucky twist,” where the foot remains planted while the knee turns inward. Understanding how these injuries happen is the first step to preventing future occurrences.

While ACL injuries are prevalent among athletes, particularly those who participate in high-contact or pivot-centric sports, they aren’t sidelined strictly for the young and active. An aging population, where fitness remains a priority, also sees its share of ACL tears. Proper conditioning and technique, therefore, are critical for anyone looking to prevent knee injuries.

The Surgical Process: What to Expect

For individuals who opt for ACL reconstruction, understanding the surgical process can help alleviate anxiety and set realistic expectations for the recovery ahead. We will demystify each step from pre-operation to post-operation care.

Pre-Operation Preparation

Before surgery, Dr. Strasburger will walk his patients through each detail of the surgical process and address any questions or concerns they may have. At Syracuse Area Health – Strasburger Orthopaedics, we understand that mental preparation is just as important as physical—surgery can be intimidating, but understanding the process and visualizing a full recovery can be comforting.

The Operation Itself

ACL surgeries are often performed arthroscopically. Tiny incisions are made, and Dr. Strasburger uses a camera attached to a thin scope, guiding miniature, specialized instruments through the scope. The torn ACL is removed, and the replacement graft is attached to the femur and tibia.

Recovery Room and Post-Operative Care

Following surgery, you will spend some time in the recovery room before being discharged. The first few days at home are about pain management, rest, icing, compression, and elevation (RICE). You will be instructed on exercises to restore motion and strength, which is where the real recovery begins.

Rehabilitation: The Key to Restoring Function

The road to recovery post-ACL surgery is a marathon, not a sprint. Rehabilitation is a carefully orchestrated effort between Dr. Strasburger, a physical rehab therapist, and you. It starts with the immediate post-operative phase and extends to several months of dedicated work.

During the early phase, the focus is on reducing swelling, restoring range of motion, and initiating muscle activation exercises. Patients usually begin weight-bearing as tolerated, using crutches or a brace as needed. Patients gradually resume walking without assistive devices, work on improving muscle strength, and engage in proprioception exercises to regain a sense of balance. It’s a transitional phase that moves you from the protective environment immediately following surgery to more functional activities.

The final stage of rehab involves increased sport-specific exercises, agility drills, and a gradual return to athletic activity. The goal here is to return your knee to a state where it is safe and capable of participating in the activities you love.

Post-Rehabilitation: Life After an ACL Tear

Rehabilitation doesn’t stop the day you’re cleared by your orthopedic surgeon. Maintaining the strength and flexibility gained through rehab will be an ongoing commitment. 

Incorporating preventative techniques into your fitness routine can significantly decrease the likelihood of a subsequent ACL injury. This includes continued strengthening of the quadriceps, hamstrings, and hip muscles, as well as working on agility, balance, and landing mechanics.

Athletes may benefit greatly from a structured, methodical protocol as they return to sports. A structured plan that gradually reintroduces athletes to their respective activities. It usually comprises several phases focusing on aerobic conditioning, strength, balance, plyometrics, and lastly, sport-specific activities.

A Full Life Post-ACL Surgery

An ACL tear is a significant setback, but it does not have to be the end of an athletic career. With the right medical team, dedication to the rehabilitation process, and a cautious return to activity, many athletes come back stronger than ever. It is the goal of Dr. Strasburger and the team at Syracuse Area Health – Strasburger Orthopaedics to ensure patients like you have the knowledge to make informed decisions about your ACL injury.
In the unfortunate event you or a loved one experience a torn ACL, reach out to Dr. Strasburger today for a treatment plan tailored specifically to you.

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