Julian Edelman catches the ball from Tom Brady. He’s at the 25, the 20 and just as he’s about to reach the 15-yard line he tries to make a cut to the inside of the defender and falls into a heap gripping his right knee. When looking back at the play, even though a defender was close to him, no one touched him. He just tried to change direction with the right leg and went down with an injury. Most avid sports fans know what that can mean—an ACL tear. It was announced the next day that he had a full thickness tear of his ACL and would miss the entire 2017-2018 season with the Patriots.
When working with athletes, the first question I get when they injure their knees is, “It’s not my ACL right?” ACL tears are most athletes’ worst nightmare -– and rightfully so. Here are some statistics regarding athletes’ return after ACL reconstruction.
- Only 60% of athletes who have ACL reconstruction return to the sport at the same level as prior to injury
- 50% will have evidence of knee arthritis within 10 years after surgery
- Within 2 years after surgery, 20% of athletes who have their ACL’s reconstructed will have surgery on the same knee again
- 10% of athletes will tear the opposite ACL
These stats are just some of the reasons why doing physical therapy before, and after, surgery is so important to maximize performance and minimize future risk. (There are also ACL prevention programs that are successful at limiting ACL tears.) It is extremely important to go into surgery with as much motion and strength because that will lead to a faster, more successful recovery. Edelman’s surgery was almost a month after the injury, so he may have spent the month maximizing his strength and motion and limiting swelling.
His recovery after surgery, like any patient recovering from this injury, likely focused on regaining knee motion and hip and knee strength early on, progressing to incorporating balance and finally sport-specific motions such as cutting, changing directions, and twisting on the involved leg. Hopefully, we’ll see him on the field as good as ever later in 2018!
By Jenn Millen, PTA, ATC