Surgery for ACL sprains is not always required. Depending on the level of competition that you perform, you may be advised to follow a non-surgical (conservative) approach.
Who should have surgery?
The decision on whether to operate on the knee or not for an ACL sprain is a controversial one. It often depends on a number of factors such as the athlete’s age, their occupation, their lifestyle, and the degree of instability within the knee.
An orthopedic surgeon will be able to advise on which treatment approach is preferable. If you opt for reconstructive surgery, then the operation usually takes place as soon as possible after the injury has occurred. If your knee is very swollen you may be advised to wait a few weeks to let your knee settle down. Surgery is more successful if swelling is significantly reduced.
A study indicated that cartilage loss from the back of the patella (kneecap) is greater in young patients who have early reconstructive surgery.
How long is recovery?
Recovery rates after an ACL injury, either following reconstructive surgery or not vary greatly. Most patients may take 9 months or more to recover fully. However, within 4-5 months the knee should be starting to function normally. At this point, you may be able to introduce a change of direction drills into rehabilitation.
It is not unusual that even 1-year post-surgery, you may still lack confidence in your knee. Unfortunately for some, this can continue for several years.