Dr. Johnson discusses the challenges women will likely face after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) surgery.
I think the therapy is a difficult challenge. I think, and there’s two real components to that. There’s the physical part, which I think all of us could kind of imagine. “My knee hurts. My doctor is telling me to move. It hurts again. I got these darn crutches.” So there’s the physical part. That’s the physical part.
But then there’s the mental part which I don’t think a lot of people think about, which is just as important is to push yourself to do that stuff, and even when the pain is gone. So in other words, you are a couple of months out of ACL surgery, pain is gone, crutches are gone, braces is gone, you still have to mentally push yourself to get to the physical therapy suite to do your exercises.
So there’s a physical part I call it early on that is a challenge, and then there’s the mental part that kicks in about that third month and can last all the way to the twelfth month. And that mental part is often what separates those that make it back competitively to ACL surgery and those that don’t.
Because when people have this surgery and they are, say, six months out, and you walk in to your doctor’s office and you play on the female team at night and you volunteered for the indoor team, you are going to walk into your doctor’s office, and you are going to say, “You know, you said I could play, but I went out there and my knee just doesn’t feel normal.” And what we have found is it doesn’t feel normal. That’s the mental part. That’s the part that the patient has to work through.
So in other words, structurally, we are going to look at the knee, your doctor is going to look at your knee and your doctor is going to pull on it and twist it and do all these crazy things, your doctor is going to say, “Feels good to me.” But it’s the mental part of you getting used to your new knee because it is a new knee. It is a different knee, and you are going to say to your physicians, you are going to say, “Yeah, but it feels different,” and you are going to go, “It does feel different.”
The good news is though in general, we can tell that same athlete a year later. So now they are 18 months after ACL surgery, that athlete is going to come into your office and go, “You know what? It feels normal now.” So that’s what happens. So don’t be alarmed if eight months after ACL surgery you say to yourself, “This just doesn’t feel normal.” That is normal. That’s typically what happens.
About Dr. Johnson, M.D.:
Dr. Darren L. Johnson, M.D., received his medical degree from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the University of Southern California School of Medicine, Los Angeles and his fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.
Dr. Johnson is currently Professor and Chairman of Orthopaedic Surgery and Director of Sports Medicine at the University of Kentucky. His clinical interests include arthroscopy, knee and shoulder reconstruction and the double-bundle procedure for ACL repair.
Dr. Johnson was named among the Top Doctors for Women by Women’s Health magazine in 2008.