Types of Water Exercises for an ACL Injury in the Knee

Knee stretching and strengthening can be completed in the water.
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An ACL -- or anterior cruciate ligament -- injury is one of the most common knee injuries seen. These injuries usually occur in athletes who participate in high-impact sports including basketball, soccer and football. Surgery is often required to repair an ACL injury. As part of your rehabilitation program, water exercises may be used to strengthen and increase flexibility in your knee. Water exercises are low-impact and can be completed with minimal pain.

Water Walking

Walking in water is a simple way to restore your normal walking patterns, as well as strengthen your leg following an ACL injury. In waist-high water, walk as normally as possible in a circle or across the width of the pool. Begin walking for five minutes at a time. As you become stronger, work your way up to 30 minutes of water-walking each session.


Knee Lifts in Water

Knee lifts can help strengthen and improve your ability to flex and extend your knee. In chest-high water, stand with your back against the side of the pool for stability. Keep your back straight and your feet shoulder-width apart. Bend your affected knee and bring your thigh parallel to the surface of the water. Once your thigh is parallel to the water's surface, slowly straighten out your leg completely. Slowly lower your leg back to the ground and repeat. Complete one set of 10 repetitions.

Knee-to-Chest Stretch

A knee-to-chest stretch helps to strengthen and increase the range of motion in your knee following an ACL injury. Sit on a bench in water that falls at your shoulder level. Keep your back straight. Position your feet flat on the bottom of the pool, with your knees bent. Place your hands under your thigh and pull your knee toward your chest. Once your knee is lifted, wrap your hands around your lower leg to pull your leg closer to your chest. Hold this position for three seconds. Resume the starting position and repeat. Complete one set of 10 repetitions.


Flutter Kicks and Jogging

Once you build up strength in your knee, you can advance to aqua jogging and flutter-kick swimming, according to the Sports Medicine Department of Massachusetts General Hospital. Perform an aqua workout for 20 to 30 minutes three days each week as part of a five- to seven-day workout routine using stationary bike riding. Follow your doctor's instructions carefully, to make certain exercises are right for you.


Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker.