ACL Surgery Return to Sports: How Do You Get Back Quicker?

By Chris Centeno, MD /

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acl surgery return to sports

One of the biggest bummers of getting ACL surgery is the time away from playing. Let’s face it, ACL surgery return to sports is awful. Most athletes don’t get back before 6 months and at that point they’re lucky to be at 50% of where they were before the injury. Is there a way to get back quicker? Ditch the surgery and use your own stem cells to help heal the ligament. Let me explain.

The common lore is that ACL ligament tears don’t heal, but recent advances in stem cell technology have shown MRI evidence of ligaments that weren’t supposed to heal, looking more like normal ligaments after a precise stem cell injection that a torn one. As the medical group that pioneered this technique, we’ve also had extensive experience with return to play, which for a stem cell injected ACL seems to be faster than a surgery. The biggest difference is at the end of the day, the fact that you can exercise earlier and that your muscles don’t atrophy means that you can get back on the field, court, or ice sooner.

To compare the rehab and post care for both procedures, check out the comparison above – click on the table to see a larger image. Basically, in the first two weeks after surgery your knee is a swollen and awful mess because the surgeon just used a power drill to ream two tunnels through your bone! This is why you’re still hobbling around on crutches. During this time with a knee stem cell procedure your knee may be swollen for a few days and sore from the precise injection, but with your brace, you can do simple cardio to keep your muscles from atrophying. Check out the rest of the differences in the table, but as you can see, getting back to sports is likely quicker with the stem cell injection procedure than with the surgery. In addition, if your ACL heals, the knee won’t have the big lifetime deficits of having an artificial ACL ligament.

The upshot? While in our experience about 30% of ACL tears can’t be treated with a precision knee stem cell procedure, about 70% can be treated this way. For those lucky patients, in our experience, recovery is much quicker than surgery. To find out more, see this link to learn more about the knee ACL stem cell procedure and see if you’re a candidate.

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Chris Centeno, MD

Regenexx Founder

Chris Centeno, MD is a specialist in regenerative medicine and the new field of Interventional Orthopedics. Centeno pioneered orthopedic stem cell procedures in 2005 and is responsible for a large amount of the published research on stem cell use for orthopedic applications.
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