ACL repair and return to riding

beezlbub

Likes Bikes
So I’m lying here in the hospital about 12hrs post repair of my right ACL, thinking about the long rehab road ahead of me and thought I’d see if there are other ‘burners out there who’ve gone through this and want to share their experience?

The doc has already said back on a indoor trainer in about a month (hello Zwift) and a few more before getting out on a (real) road bike. I’m cool with that and while the road isn’t my preferred bike fix, at least there’s a plan. The mountain bike is harder as the risk profile is higher (and therefore potential to be back here in the hospital doing this all over again, tho I acknowledge the road is far from risk-free). I’m wondering how I’ll go balancing that risk with the desire (and prob mental health benefits) of getting back out for ‘easy’ rides on the dirt in 6-12 months time….

Anyway sorry bit of a ramble here, awake and bored at 5am with too much time to think! Would love to hear anyone’s experiences on their return to the dirt post this injury (success stories preferred!) and any tips you can give me!!
 

Scotty675

Likes Bikes and Dirt
It is a long road but you will come out the end of it just fine. I have been there twice. I actually thank an ACL for me discovering MTB. When asked to take those steps at the hospital, trust me fake it till you make it. Hospital is never fun, and you’ll feel better at home it a familiar environment. Don’t rush recovery, especially at the start. Keep knee moving but listen to your doctors. Swimming will become your friend. Worked for me anyway. Don’t ride clipped in, first few rides back(you may ride flats anyway). Brain becomes programmed to twist your foot, not what you want for a while. Rest up and stay positive. I wish you well with recovery.
 

PJO

in me vL comy
So I’m lying here in the hospital about 12hrs post repair of my right ACL, thinking about the long rehab road ahead of me and thought I’d see if there are other ‘burners out there who’ve gone through this and want to share their experience?

The doc has already said back on a indoor trainer in about a month (hello Zwift) and a few more before getting out on a (real) road bike. I’m cool with that and while the road isn’t my preferred bike fix, at least there’s a plan. The mountain bike is harder as the risk profile is higher (and therefore potential to be back here in the hospital doing this all over again, tho I acknowledge the road is far from risk-free). I’m wondering how I’ll go balancing that risk with the desire (and prob mental health benefits) of getting back out for ‘easy’ rides on the dirt in 6-12 months time….

Anyway sorry bit of a ramble here, awake and bored at 5am with too much time to think! Would love to hear anyone’s experiences on their return to the dirt post this injury (success stories preferred!) and any tips you can give me!!
I'm about 2 years since a shoulder injury as a result of an off on the mtb. Landed awkwardly with arm outstretched (think one-armed superman) after a front wheel washout. Normally I am pretty good at the old tuck and roll but not that time! Landed on my elbow which wrenched the shoulder backwards, knew it was bad as soon as I did it. Had a little trail dance for about 5 minutes waiting for the pain to subside. Was riding on my own, but within phone coverage, rode one handed and pushed for about 40 min to get to a point where the missus could pick me.
No broken bones, but ligament and tendon damage.

Was off any bike totally for about a month post injury. Very slowly returned to commuting to work, and then eventually after about 2 months some gentle mtb rides. Problem was that the active nature of riding a mtb was painful on my shoulder. The riding got easier but I was still tentative.
It all grumbled along and I did some exercises but not having had a soft tissue injury like this I was kinda hoping it would eventually sort itself out. It didn't. Nothing much changed until I found an excellent physio (one that deals with gymnasts) about 8 months post injury (should've done that much earlier!!!!) . He worked me through a 12-week program and it made a huge difference.

After the 12 weeks I was heaps better and more solid on the bike (roughly a year post injury), started back into rock climbing about 2 months after that (was one of my physio goals). Shoulder is now 97%, there is still one movement that is painful (maybe 2/10 for pain) and likely that it will be for the foreseeable future, but everything else is back.

My tips: Get a good physio, get one early. Do exactly what they tell you down to the letter, work hard (it is pretty boring doing repetitive exercises)!

Hope you have a good recovery!

EDIT: missed the part where you said "this" injury. Disregard most of my post, but really it applies to most injuries or recoveries.
 
Last edited:

teK--

Eats Squid
My tips: Get a good physio, get one early. Do exactly what they tell you down to the letter, work hard (it is pretty boring doing repetitive exercises)!

Hope you have a good recovery!

EDIT: missed the part where you said "this" injury. Disregard most of my post, but really it applies to most injuries or recoveries.
What that guy said .. (I also started typing a long post about my AC joint (shoulder injury) then realised I am a fuckwit who needs glasses as you are talking about a knee injury.

My only tips are also, to listen to your surgeon and physio.

Eat a wholesome diet with lots of vegies, avoid alcohol, drink lots of water and sleep well.

It is the rehab that will get you back on your feet, and remember with a dodgey knee that doesn't stop you from using other parts of your body for exercise. You might just have to do modified versions whilst sitting or laying down. Getting the blood pumping is really important for healing, so don't slack off once you are given clearance by the doc.

When you can, try and get on the indoor trainer pushing really light gears. Just to get the legs moving. It is good for the headspace too.

TBH even once I was physically healed, it took months to mentally repair to the point where I could ride all the same features as previous. That is totally normal too, so don't rush yourself.

Keep us in the loop and best wishes for a speedy recovery.
 

beezlbub

Likes Bikes
Thanks all for the replies (even the non-ACL one, as I can see the process and in particular some of the mental aspect is the same regardless). Back home a couple of days now and things seem to be going well - pain pretty manageable now (got off the hard stuff after the second night) and swelling is well…swelling. I’m into the exercises the physio gave me (they said start immediately) which feel horrible but are similar to the initial prehab stuff I was doing so at least it’s familiar. Really I’m just glad the prehab and surgery is done so at least the improvements I see from now on are permanent (fingers crossed)!
 

caad9

Likes Bikes and Dirt
I did my ACL playing footy about this time 10 years ago. At the time I was young and stupid and made the decision to not have surgery to fix it.

I did 8 weeks in a brace to let the medial heal and then got on with things. It was definitely wobbly to begin with.

If and when you start riding a MTB again, the accidental foot down when you lose balance or slip is the one to look out for. But that probably depends on the nature of your trails.

Cycling is definitely a great sport for the rehab as it is a relatively low impact sport.
 
Last edited:

The Duckmeister

Has stumpy thumbs, Speciaized are so weird
Although not ACL, I had a knee job around 18 years ago, so recovery process will be somewhat similar, although given the nature of the injury, yours will be longer. My primary problem was a badly mistracking patella (kneecap) caused by my mis-spent youth as a runner & resulting muscle imbalance, but that also led to undesirable movement in the joint which caused a cartilage tear. The job I had done involved partially cutting one of the secondary ligaments bracing the kneecap to reduce tension and allow it to track better, and to tidy up the raggy bits of cartilage dangling around.

I was off crutches after about a week, and pretty much straight away began flexibility exercises to get it moving again. I had a recumbent trike (Human-Powered Vehicle -> HPV) chassis, so put it up on blocks at an easily-accessible height to use as part of the plan. With no load, I'd work back & forward through the limited range of motion, just nudging into the limit each upstroke. You can do the same on the trainer, providing you can get on it without straining the knee too much. I think I started with one 10-minute session a day for a few days, then stretched out to 15 minutes for a few days, then 20, then 2 x 15, etc. Each session I'd keep gently nudging the limit of movement, gaining a bit more each time, getting a bigger sector of crank rotation. Just short of three weeks post-op I managed full crank rotations with no load, but pretty jerky across to top of the stroke. About a week later I got back on the bike for about 35km on the road.

Your injury could well dictate a longer process, but following a similar method to get get the knee moving again as quickly as you can will help a lot. I'd err away from jumping back on the MTB too soon; aside from the extra risk of crashing & doing extra damage, it's a much more dynamic type of riding, which can stress the joint too much, too quickly, and that could set you back more.

It will be frustrating at times, but be patient, be persistent and you'll be back on the horse. Road or path riding is better than no riding at all. :)
 
Top