Getting Back Into Sports After an ACL Tear

ACL tear: Two of the most feared words to hear if you’re an athlete. This injury typically means surgery and several months of downtime. There is life after an ACL tear, however, and we’re here to support you, from your diagnosis to your return to the field. 

At the Center for Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, Dr. Michael L. Blackwell and his team specialize in repairing your ACL tear and getting you back to doing what you love most. 

ACL tear overview

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is an important ligament in your knee, and tearing it causes your knee to lose stability. Most who have torn their ACL report hearing and feeling a popping in their knee accompanied by swelling, instability, and pain with weight-bearing. 

You can tear your ACL no matter what sport you play. Making a sudden stop, changing your direction quickly, and landing or jumping awkwardly are all ways you can damage your ACL. 

When you return to your sport after tearing and repairing your ACL, you need to be aware of how your knee has changed, how to return to your sport safely, and how to prevent reinjury.

Your knee after surgery

Your post-op knee looks a lot different than it did before the injury. Tearing your ACL affects other areas of your body as well. Understanding these changes makes sure your return lasts. Here are some things to consider:

Your muscles are weaker

Spending all that time in recovery weakens the muscles surrounding your knee. It’s important that you focus on strengthening the muscles in your legs after surgery to support your knee as you get back to playing your sport. 


Tearing your ACL throws your anatomy out of whack. The muscles in one leg are weaker than the other, your range of motion differs in each knee, and each knee responds differently to weight-bearing and change of motion. Dr. Blackwell works with you to even out your anatomy so you become stronger and have less of a risk of reinjury.  

Returning to your sport

You’ve been looking forward to your return for months. Make a safe comeback by following our advice:

Work on your core and conditioning

Since your knee has gone through trauma and serious injury, it’s imperative that you get yourself as close to playing shape as possible. Engage in cardiovascular and strengthening exercises so that your body is better able to support your knee as you get back to playing. 

Follow our guidelines

Just because Dr. Blackwell has cleared you to start playing again, you must continue to care for your knee. Be sure to follow any physical therapy recommendations, brace your knee if needed, and attend all follow-up appointments even if you feel fine. 

Listen to yourself

No one knows your knee better than you do. If you feel overly tired when first returning, stop immediately. Tired bodies are much more prone to reinjury. If you experience any pain, tenderness, or swelling before, during, or after a practice or game, stop immediately. Take measures to reduce the pain and swelling with rest, ice, compression, and elevation, then call Dr. Blackwell to schedule an appointment. 

Preventing re-injury

Getting off the bench and back in the game is the ultimate goal after tearing your ACL. You’ve worked so hard to recover, and reinjuring your ACL is not in the playbook. The best way to avoid hurting yourself again is to take enough time to recover and address any psychological obstacles you might encounter. 

Sitting out for any length of time can seem just as painful as the injury itself. No ACL tear is exactly the same, and no two recovery times are the same. Depending on the severity of your injury, your time spent in recovery varies, but it typically lasts around six months. 

It‘s extremely important that you follow any physical therapy or exercise recommendations Dr. Blackwell provides. Equally as important is getting enough rest and allowing your knee to heal. Jumping back in too early only heightens your risk for reinjuring your knee. 

When you first get off the bench and back on the playing field, you’re likely to experience some psychological obstacles. It’s difficult to fully trust your knee and its stability when you first run or jump. This is why your diligence in the recovery and rehabilitation phase is so important. The better fit you are upon returning, the easier it is for you to trust your knee and not reinjure it. 

ACL tears don’t have to mean “game over.” We know how frustrating this time can be, so we’re dedicated to giving you the best care at each stage of your injury. Get started by calling our offices in  Shenandoah or Tomball, Texas, at 281-622-4149 to schedule an appointment. You can also send Dr. Blackwell and the team a message here on the website.

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