ACL Reconstruction: What You Need to Know

Avinash Mehta,18, came to us when he twisted his knee during a routine basketball practice in college one day. Doctors at Sitaram Bhartia advised medicines for pain relief and applying ice packs to reduce the swelling in his knee. They asked him to get a scan after 5 days to confirm a suspected ACL injury.

Causes of ACL Injury

According to Dr. Vikas J. Seth, Senior Consultant, Orthopaedics at Sitaram Bhartia, “ACL or anterior cruciate is the most important ligament of the knee joint which helps in its stability. ACL could be injured during any vigorous sporting activity like football, basketball, high and low jumps, or badminton.”  

“It can also happen at any age during a sudden twist to the knee“ points out Dr. Aman Sachdeva, Head, Physiotherapy.

Treatment for ACL Injury

When Avinash visited Dr. Vikas after the scan, he was shocked to find out he had a complete tear of the ACL, which required surgery.

He became very worried as he had a national level match coming up. He had been practicing for it since months.

“Can the injury be treated without surgery? “ asked Avinash, perplexed.

“We cannot treat a complete tear without surgery. ACL reconstruction is required because the torn ligament cannot rejoin on its own” said Dr. Vikas.

acl reconstruction

Tear of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) – Front view of flexed knee

The Right Time for ACL Reconstruction Surgery

“Do I require surgery immediately?” asked Avinash anxiously.

“Typically, we advise waiting 4-6 weeks”  Dr. Vikas reassured him.

ACL cannot be repaired so it is reconstructed using a keyhole surgery (arthroscopy) in which the ligament is reconstructed using grafts from the patient’s tendon.

Avoiding the surgery could potentially lead to premature arthritis and a painful knee, which is why surgeons recommend getting surgery.

Hospital Stay and Recovery after ACL Reconstruction

“How long would I have to stay in hospital? When can I get back to my daily routine?” asked Avinash, fearing the worst.

“You would be in hospital for only 1-2 days after the surgery. But you’ll be able to start walking by evening with the support of elbow crutches”  explained Dr. Aman.

“You will be able to go back to college and attend classes in just a week but you will have to wear a brace.”

“But when can I resume playing basketball?” Avinash asked, a bit relieved.

“You will be able to play again in about 6-9 months as long as you follow our advice and walk with knee support and crutches” counsels Dr. Aman.

“Remember,  no high impact activities such as running or even jogging will be allowed for a few months.”

Duration of Physiotherapy after ACL Reconstruction

“How long would I require physiotherapy after surgery?” Avinash wanted to know.

“Initially you would require physiotherapy regularly for a few weeks.” Dr. Aman clarified.

“After that your sessions will depend on how your muscle strength and function improves. You may require physiotherapy only twice or thrice a week.”  

Treatment at Home After ACL Reconstruction

“After ACL reconstruction surgery, you may experience little swelling and pain.”

“The main treatment you can follow at home is to take your physiotherapist’s advice seriously and practice the recommended exercises.”

“In case you notice excessive swelling and experience severe pain, contact us right away“ Dr. Vikas concludes.

Avinash felt at ease now that he knew what to expect with ACL reconstruction and recovery. He also felt confident he wouldn’t have to miss the national game because of the injury.


This article has been updated in 2021 and written with inputs from Dr. Vikas J. Seth, Senior Consultant, Orthopedics. Dr. Vikas has over 20 years of experience and has practiced in the UK and in India.