What Can I Do To Prevent Reinjuring My Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)?

Question: What can I do to prevent reinjuring my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)?

Answer: Well, certainly after you've gone through the effort and the pain and suffering of tearing your ligament, and then having it reconstructed and spending six months in rehabilitation, you don't want to re-injure it. And so what can you do to prevent re-injury?Well probably the most important thing is besides regaining all of your motion and all of your strength – the key thing that we find that takes the longest to recover after you tear an ACL and have it reconstructed is a sense that's called proprioception.

And that is what we term balance and agility in that knee -- that reflex system that allows you to cut and land and jump and walk on uneven ground without having to think about what you're doing with your knee. That automatic system in our knees, that feedback system, we call that proprioception.

And studies have shown that it can take up to a year for that to come back, whereas you might get your motion and strength back within a couple of months after the surgery. And that proprioceptive sense or system in our knees is key to preventing re-injury of the ACL.

That can be enhanced or sped up by working with a physical therapist or an athletic trainer on regaining that proprioceptive sense, that balance, the reflex arc, etc. And so, if you're under the care of a good therapist or a good athletic trainer, make sure you spend a lot of time before returning to your sport working on that balance and proprioception, again, as well as strength and conditioning.

Sherwin Ho, M.D., The University of Chicago Medical Center Play