Tearing an ACL can feel like one of the most devastating moments in an athlete’s career. But in devastating moments, there are two types of athletes.
On one hand, there are athletes who let the devastation overtake them into a downward spiral.
On the other hand, there are people who use these moments to dig deep, find answers, and come out bigger, stronger, and faster on the other side.
Which do you choose to be? This post, and this company, were built for the latter group of people. For those who seek answers, here are 9 ways to put together one heck of a comeback story and recover faster from ACL injuries.
Make your intentions known
Throughout the rehab process, it is important to follow the guidance of your physical therapists and doctors. However, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t make your intentions known. Let them know that you want to speed up the recovery timeline and that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to do it. The normal operating mode of a physician and physical therapist is to be conservative (rightfully so), so if you would like to be a little more aggressive in your recovery, you’ll have to constantly remind them. Consistently ask when you can do the activities you’d like to do and if there are any modifications that may be appropriate in the interim. You end up being a little bit of a pain in the butt, but they need to know your intentions.
Mindset is one of the most overlooked factors in a faster recovery from ACL injuries and surgery. If you want to speed up recovery, you’ll have to make sure it is a top priority each and every day of the recovery process. You’ll have to believe deep down that you can come back bigger, faster, and stronger. And when it’s time to really start testing the knee, you’ll have to remove all doubt from your mind. Try visualizing yourself doing the things you want to do on your knee 3 minutes each day and incorporate the emotion of what you’ll be feeling when you return to those activities (confident, fearless, exhilarated, focused, etc.) into your visualization. Psychological barriers have been linked to return to sport rates and re-injury risk, so if you can get your mind right, you will be well on the path to a faster, more successful ACL recovery.
This one’s easy to describe. Get yourself feeling as close to 100% as possible before surgery. Work with whoever you have to in order to increase range of motion, build strength, and decrease pain before surgery. All of the research shows that the preoperative condition of the patient is one of the biggest predictors of post-operative success. If you want to make ACL recovery faster, focus as hard on the prehab as you plan to on the rehab.
This is a big one and it’s unfortunately not often communicated well by physical therapists and physicians. If you take small amounts of pain too seriously, you could end up affecting your body’s ability to develop confidence in movement again, slowing down the ACL recovery process. If you don’t take pain seriously enough, you jeopardize doing more harm than good. Here’s our basic guideline on pain. Ask yourself how it rates on a 1-10 scale. If it’s 3/10 or below, it’s worth exploring the sensation further. Continue doing the movement causing the pain in a controlled fashion. If pain elevates above 3/10, stop the activity for the day. If pain starts going below a 3/10, you’re showing the body it doesn’t have to ring the “pain alarm” for this movement anymore, which is a huge key to making ACL recovery faster.
No matter what exercise or movement you are doing, do your best to understand the mechanics. What is the movement supposed to accomplish? What is it supposed to look like in order to accomplish this task? How would the movement look if I was doing it wrong (there are usually several ways)? If you want to speed up the ACL recovery process, you need to make sure you are getting the absolute most out of every rep of every exercise you perform. If you don’t understand these basics, keep asking questions to your physical therapist and doctor until you do!
In order to repair itself faster, your body needs the necessary building blocks. Imagine being a sculptor trying to make the next masterpiece without any of the key components of the sculpture… it won’t go well. If you really want to optimize the ACL recovery process, we’d recommend working with a nutritionist who’s experienced putting together nutrition plans for athletes during rehab. We’ve done a little bit of the leg work for you by asking the team nutritionist of one of the NFL teams we’ve worked with about the basics on what she recommends: Hydrate, Higher protein diet, and Supplement. Try to get at least 50% of your body weight in ounces of water, 100% of your body weight in grams of protein, and supplement with a multivitamin and omega-3 fatty acids throughout the rehab process.
Another often overlooked part of the ACL recovery process is sleep. Sleep is when the majority of the body’s basic repair processes occur. You need to make sure you get enough of it and that it is high quality. At a minimum, you should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. Also, try to get a feel for the quality of your sleep. Are you waking up often at night? Do you dream (this would be an indication that you get into deep sleep, which is a good sign)? If you really want to dive deep, you can look into buying a high tech sleep tracker to analyze quality. Once you have a baseline, see if you can modify things (environment, schedule, etc.) to improve.
Throughout human history, technology has made things faster. Use it to your advantage to do the same with your ACL recovery. The best technologies should accelerate the processes by which your body naturally repairs itself. It should also incorporate an active (you are using your brain to drive movement) rather than a passive (the technology or another person is moving your body) component. Our favorite technology to use to speed up recovery from ACL surgery is a direct current electrical stimulation device, the Neubie by Neufit. The Accelerate ACL team has perfected protocols that use the technology to increase range of motion, build strength, and relieve pain at a faster rate than people normally see utilizing traditional physical therapy protocols on their own. If you want to trial the the technology, we offer an exclusive $99 2 day trial. During the trial, you’ll work 1 on 1 with our team virtually to learn how to optimize its use.
Consistency, consistency, consistency.
No matter what you are trying to accomplish in life, consistency is the key. Those who apply disciplined effort over longer periods of time put themselves in a great position to succeed. It really is that simple. Apply each of the ways to make ACL recovery faster listed above in a consistent manner, and I can guarantee you will recover faster than if you are not consistent with your efforts.