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Phase I: preoperative period.

The goal for this phase of the accelerated rehabilitation program is to obtain full range of motion. This means that you should be able to flex and extend your knee as far as the uninjured side by the end of the program. This period is a good time for you to prepare for ACL surgery and to learn as much as possible about the type of surgery and rehabilitation that you are going to have.

quadricep muscles (Image Credit: Seif Medical Graphics)During this period of time, you should concentrate on maintaining as much strength as possible in your quadriceps muscle. The quadriceps muscle brings your knee into full extension. This is one of the strongest muscles in your body, but unfortunately, it can loose a significant amount of strength after any type of knee surgery.

The quadriceps contracts, pulling on the patella which is connected to the tibia by the patellar tendon. The force of this contraction brings the knee into extension.

Regaining the strength in your quadriceps muscles can be difficult, because your knee may hurt quite a bit in the first few weeks after your injury. Some common exercises that orthopedic surgeons and physical therapists usually recommend are knee extensions, quad sets, heel slides, and straight leg raises. These exercises are performed in the following manner:

Knee extensions and quad sets --To perform these two exercises, place the heel of your injured leg on an object that is a few inches thick (like a phone book). Gradually relax and let your leg come to full extension. This first part of the exercise helps you to maintain a normal range of motion.

After your knee has stretched out for a while, perform a set of ten quadriceps contractions with your leg in the same position. Without lifting your heel up in the air, tighten your quadriceps muscle as hard as you can for ten seconds. Then relax for ten seconds before tightening your muscle again. Repeat this ten times. This exercise helps you to maintain quadriceps strength.

ACL Surgery Rehab: Knee extensions and quad sets


Heel Slides-- For this next exercise, start with you injured leg stretched out. Then, while keeping your heel on the floor, gradually bend your knee and slide your heel towards your buttock. Bend your knee until it becomes just slightly uncomfortable and you can feel a bit of pressure inside your knee. Hold it in this position for ten seconds. Then straighten your knee out again and relax for ten seconds. Repeat this exercise ten times as well. This exercise will help you to maintain range of motion.

ACL Surgery Rehab: Heel Slides


ACL Surgery Rehab: Heel Slides


Straight leg raise --This exercise helps you maintain your quadriceps strength. Start with your leg flat on the bed. Begin by tightening your quadriceps, as in the quad sets exercise. Then lift your leg off the bed until your heel is approximately eighteen inches off of the bed. Lower your leg back down and relax for ten seconds.

ACL Surgery Rehab: Straight leg raise
ACL Surgery Rehab: Straight leg raise


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