• Lauren Sok, PT, MPT

ACL Surgery

…is it as successful as you think?


If you are like many Americans this summer, you intensely watched the US women’s professional soccer team win the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. The standout performance of the tournament was that of Megan Rapinoe, not just because she became the oldest woman ever to score in the tournament’s final but also because of her comeback from three anterior cruciate ligament injuries (ACL). Recovering from one ACL injury is tough enough, but three surgeries and a return to professional soccer takes grit, determination, and extreme physical skill.

Go, Megan Rapinoe, Go!

Megan’s recovery exceeds the normal statistics following ACL reconstruction. The public’s perception seems to be that if you undergo ACL reconstruction surgery, it’s a temporary setback and you will return to your sport in about 6 months. However, the research shows that 1 out of 3 people will never play at the same level as prior to their ACL surgery. In other words, if three people on your team have ACL reconstruction, one of them will most likely never play that sport again. That’s a scary thought! The fact that Megan returned to her beloved sport multiple times and excelled with each comeback is remarkable.

Photo by BPI/Shutterstock

Two and a half years ago, I also had ACL reconstruction. I vividly remember the injury and the intense rehab it took to return to even simply running without pain, let alone a high-level sport like professional soccer. It happened in December 2016 while skiing in Park City, UT, with my family. After a long day of skiing, I lay in pain when a minor fall torqued my knee and a resulting “pop” was felt. I immediately knew what had happened. I would become one of the 100,000 ACL reconstruction surgeries performed annually. 

Sometimes you hit the slopes, and sometimes…

I sadly returned home from my ski trip ready to tackle the ensuing surgery and rehabilitation ahead. I was determined to not be that 1 person out of 3 that never return to their sport. I diligently completed my physical therapy which included strength training, Peloton cycling, Redcord Neurac, and Pilates reformer workouts. After 6 months, I slowly returned to running, but my endurance and power were not up to speed. I decided to join Orangetheory Fitness because interval training was lacking in my current workouts. I needed to get speed in my step and power in my legs! Within 12 months post-surgery, I was back to running faster than I had before. 


…the slopes hit back!

One of the primary reasons for undergoing ACL reconstruction is to return to your prior level of activity. Research shows that a significant number of people will never achieve this. The reasons are multifactorial. The surgery itself can be different with varying techniques, anatomical placements, and grafts. The rehabilitation process and protocols are not consistent. Some physical therapists may fail to rehab their patients well enough or not address the true cause of the ACL tear in the first place. Maybe the patient is not properly assessed by the healthcare team to ensure they are ready to return to their sport. The insurance company could have cut off the patient’s benefits too soon, so a successful recovery was not achieved. Or, maybe the patient sees professional athletes return to their sport in record time and self-discharge from physical therapy without a true plan.


If you undergo ACL reconstruction surgery or know someone who does, make sure they understand the significance of the injury and that researching the proper healthcare team (surgeon, physical therapist, trainer) is important. But, the biggest take home message is that rehabilitation post ACL reconstruction takes consistent hard work for 9-12 months and a lifetime of attention to get the best outcomes. Whether it was recent or years ago, the physical therapists at Functionize Health are ready to help you be successful after an ACL injury regardless if when it happened. A simple tune-up or tweak to your workout program can jump start your path toward staying active and injury-free for years to come. Give us a call at 404-907-4196 or send us an email at info@functionizehealth.com.


Thanks for reading,

-Lauren Sok, Physical Therapist


Lauren Sok, Founder of Functionize Health & Physical Therapy, brings 18 years of physical therapy practice and expertise in treating orthopedic and sports medicine related injuries. She incorporates a functional medicine approach in treating the whole person to find the root cause of a problem, rather than treating one body part at a time. Lauren holds a Master of Physical Therapy and Bachelor of Science in Health Science from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia. She is a Certified Stott Pilates Instructor, a Clinical Instructor at the Doctorate of Physical Therapy Program, Emory University, and is trained in Redcord Neurac and Trigger Point Dry Needling. Lauren’s email is lauren@functionizehealth.com. More information can be found at www.functionizehealth.com.

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