I tore my right ACL in July 2014. And a year later, I was still struggling to find my way “back to sport.” Although an ACL tear can be devastating to an athlete and it is one of the longest surgeries to recovery from, most people will be back to “normal” after 6 months to a year. It is not uncommon for athletes to have a physical therapist who specializes in getting you back to the basics (daily function), but not back to full strength (sport). It is also common for insurance companies to stop covering physical therapy for the duration of such a long recovery. This can leave athletes feeling a little like they are stuck in limbo and even abandoned.
In my case, I lacked range of motion and extension before and after the reconstruction and had a second surgery a few months later. As an avid soccer player, CrossFitter, and hiker, this was extremely difficult to cope with. The surgeries left me with a severe strength imbalance between my two legs and a significant worry about whether or not I’d ever be able to participate in the things I previously enjoyed.
I am still in the recovery process, 15 months post-injury, and one year from ACL reconstruction. But I have been doing CrossFit in one way or another throughout the entire process. I have had my ups and downs throughout my recovery and have learned a few things that I’m hoping might help others. CrossFit is modifiable and has enough variety that it can keep you interested and focused on what you CAN do, instead of what you can’t. It is probably one of the few active things you can keep doing as you “work around” a significant injury. I am not a doctor, physical therapist or even a trainer — but I have struggled to find information about recovery for athletes, so I want to share as much as I can, as I suspect there are others out there in a similar situation.
Here are 5 things that get in the way of an athlete’s recovery from surgery and a few tips on how to deal with them: