When can I return to sport?
To return to sport your muscle control and coordination need to be excellent and the graft needs to have achieved full strength. It recommended not to return to contact or cutting sport until 9 to 12 months post-surgery.
Because the graft also needs to be what is called re-vascularised. What that means is that the graft was healthy living tissue on the day of surgery but then it loses its blood supply when it is placed in its new site. From that point it dies and gradually weakens until new blood vessels grow back into it to allow it to strengthen again.
The time the knee is most at risk of re-injury is around the 5-6 month mark when the operated knee feels good but the re-vascularisation process is incomplete.
A physiotherapist-supervised rehabilitation is very beneficial.
Will I need crutches or a brace afterwards?
That depends mainly on what other surgery was required at the same time. In most cases crutches or a brace are only used relative to pain and comfort after ACL surgery.
What can go wrong?
There is about a 5% risk of failure in terms of ongoing “giving out” or re-rupture after ACL surgery. The risk of re-rupture is slightly lower for the patella tendon technique. There is also about a 5% lifelong risk of tearing the other knee’s ACL for someone who has already torn an ACL.
A deep infection in the knee is very uncommon but can be a big problem. For various reasons, it is possible to have ongoing pain or stiffness, or get arthritis after ACL reconstruction. A downside of the patella tendon technique is that it can be a bit sore to kneel and there is a risk of patella fracture or patella tendon rupture.
Numb spots around the knee or even further down the leg are reasonably common. Major injury to the nerves or blood vessels is exceedingly rare.
It is reasonably common to feel a prominent screw on the shin bone after the swelling has gone down This may be removed if it is problematic.
There are other risks associated with any surgery, including a risk of blood clots on the legs or lungs, heart attack or stroke.