Timeline for ACL Surgery Recovery

If an orthopedic surgeon has reconstructed your ACL, you’re probably curious about the recovery timeline. While recovery times vary, most people recover in nine months.

Keep in mind, though, if your meniscus or MCL was also damaged, your recovery will likely be somewhat different. Regardless, it’s vital to follow your physical therapist’s treatment plan so you can return to your sport as quickly as possible.

acl surgery recoveryACL Surgery Recovery: Weeks 0-6

During your first physical therapy session, your therapist will remove the compression sleeve and wrap from your knee. Don’t be surprised if your knee looks swollen and bruised – this is normal.

During the first month, it’s important that you work to regain Terminal Knee Extension (TKE). Otherwise, your gait pattern could be altered significantly, and you may lose the ability to fully extend you knee. As you wean yourself off crutches, your therapist will work with you to achieve TKE as well as regain range of motion and balance.

You’ll also begin some cardio exercises, possibly on a stationary bike, which promotes healing by circulating blood around your knee.

ACL Surgery: Weeks 7-12

During this portion of your recovery, the swelling in your knee will continue to decrease, you’ll regain extension and range of motion and you’ll work to build strength in the affected leg.

Make certain not to put more weight on your uninjured leg during exercises. Doing so will decrease your confidence in your rebuilt knee and could lead to future knee injuries. Neuromuscular retraining to help your muscles work together properly can help prevent additional injuries and rebuild an athlete’s confidence following an ACL tear.

During this phase of recovery, expect to work on a stationary bike and perform single-leg squats. If your doctor and physical therapist approve, you may also work on an elliptical machine or stair climber.

ACL Surgery: Weeks 13-18

You’ll continue to build on the prior week’s activities, but you may also start running for 15-minute intervals now. You should also have regained full knee extension and your gait pattern should be back to normal. During this phase, you’ll begin doing exercises that promote agility and single-leg strength such as figure 8s and balance board activities.

If you continue to work as prescribed by your physical therapist, by nine months, you’ll be well on your way to recovery. But remember – you must be cleared by your orthopedic surgeon before returning to your sport at 100 percent.

Have more questions about recovering from ACL surgery? Don’t hesitate to contact us to learn more.


John Redmond, MD

Joint Replacement & Hip Preservation Specialist

Southeast Orthopedic Specialist is proud to introduce the newest member to our team, Dr. John Redmond. Dr. Redmond is a graduate of the University of Minnesota Medical School. He then completed his residency in Orthopedic Surgery at Mayo Clinic...



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