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What is the Recovery Time for a Torn ACL?

arizona orthopedic surgeon

With the NBA playoffs in full swing, many in the Arizona sports medicine world are wondering where Derrick Rose is. Why isn’t Derrick Rose back on the court yet? How bad was his ACL injury, and what is taking his ACL surgery recovery so long? In sports medicine, one of our main focuses in Arizona is prevention, however treatment and recovery are also a large part of what we do. And in the recovery phase, it’s most often the patient’s body that dictates the length of time.

Derrick Rose and ACL Surgery

In April of 2012, Derrick Rose, a Chicago Bulls strong forward with amazing skills that led him to a Most Valuable Player award, tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) and underwent surgery. Surgery went as planned, physical therapy ensued and his sports medicine doctors cleared him to play. So, why isn’t he playing?

Rose told ESPN that “he didn’t have the muscle memory and was still thinking instead of reacting.” Could it be that, although his physicians have cleared him to play, his muscles are not ready? Just this week, the Chicago Bulls lost their final game in the NBA Playoffs, and many fans are left to question if the return of Rose could have prevented this playoff elimination.

Torn ACL Surgery Recovery Time

Speaking as an Arizona orthopedic surgeon, a torn anterior cruciate ligament is a common sports injury occurring within the knee quite often from a sudden stop or change in direction. The torn ACL will immediately swell, feel unstable and become awfully painful. Many times you’ll see NBA players fall to the floor in agony after suffering a torn ACL.

Depending on the severity of the torn ACL, the Arizona athlete could require invasive treatment, surgery, physical therapy, and can expect a long recovery. It is expected that nearly 200,000 people will suffer from an ACL injury in 2013 alone.

Orthopedic surgery on a torn ACL in Arizona could mean a tendon graft to replace the torn pieces of tendon. New techniques such as anteromedial drilling can replace torn tendon in a far more efficient manner, allowing the knee to move more naturally and thus limiting the risks for a torn ACL in the future.

Arizona rehabilitation and physical therapy will include range-of-motion exercises and muscle-strengthening and stability exercises. After an Arizona orthopedic surgeon attaches the ligaments and tendons, you can expect a 4 to 6 month recovery time.

So why isn’t Derrick Rose back in the game? As an Arizona orthopedic surgeon, I see many reasons why Rose has not made it back onto the court, many of which are due to continued physical ailments. While many fans see Rose’s refusal to hit the court a mental thing fueled by fear, however as an Arizona orthopedic surgeon we know that a variety of physical ailments might still be plaguing him.

After ACL surgery, problems related to the affected area can still occur, including limited range of motion, numbness and pain, grating of the kneecap, muscle loss, muscle stiffness, and a higher risk for repeat ACL tear. In the case of a professional NBA player, this physical ailments, though they might not affect a non-athlete, can greatly affect things like Rose’s shot, his ability to move on the court, his rebound abilities, even his reaction time.

As an Arizona orthopedic surgeon who has surgically treated many ACL tears, it’s understandable that Rose did not make it back onto the court. With so many factors playing into his decision, it’s time to respect his choice.

About Shelden Martin

I've had the privilege of working with many professional, collegiate and high school athletic teams. I am currently the head team physician for the 2012 AFL World Champion Arizona Rattlers. I have also presented research both nationally and internationally and published extensively in peer-reviewed literature.