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While the time it can take to return to sports after knee surgery varies, it is important to follow doctor’s orders, according to Stephen Lucey, MD, an orthopedic surgeon in Greensboro and member of the Cone Health Medical and Dental Staff.
Before surgery, you may do specific exercises to aid in recovery. “Recommended exercises can be done at home or with a physical therapist to improve strength and range of motion,” says Dr. Lucey.
Then, you can expect to follow a 3-step process to get back to the sports you enjoy.
After surgery, you should use the RICE method: Rest the knee, ice it, compress or wrap the injured area and elevate it to prevent swelling. “At first, you should take it easy,” adds. Dr. Lucey. “You may benefit from pain relievers as directed by your surgeon.” Second, you can expect to begin mobilization or therapy techniques that improve range of motion and begin to strengthen your knee. Once you have sufficiently recovered, the focus shifts to the final phase of recovery – strengthening exercises. “For runners, strengthening might include biking or running on a treadmill,” shares Dr. Lucey. “For soccer players, juggling, kicking or passing the ball are options.”
The timeline for returning to sports depends on your knee issue and extent of surgery. “After arthroscopic knee surgery requiring a small incision, you may be able to return to sports in a month while it could take 6 months or more after tearing an ACL, a ligament that helps stabilize your knee joint,” concludes Dr. Lucey. “The key is following your doctor’s instructions on your road to recovery.”
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