Can You Play Sports With a Torn ACL?

For most athletes, the knee is a vital joint to performance. The health and mobility of the knee’s major ligaments is an absolute prerequisite for many individual and team sports. For any sport that requires running, pivoting, pitching and long throws, you will need a strong anterior cruciate ligament. There are a few sports where knee movement is not required at all, but having a torn ACL severely inhibits your ability to even walk or sit comfortably.

A football player sits on the sideline bench in full gear. (Image: james boulette/iStock/Getty Images)

Surgery and Rehab

The ACL affects performance for most popular sports, and if you’ve torn the ligament in a knee, you need to have it repaired and rehabilitated before you can compete. This process requires an initial series of careful exercise, immobilization and examination. To recover the necessary stability to play sports at a competitive level, arthroscopic surgery is usually required. Following surgery, you will need several weeks of healing time followed by several months of gradually more intense physical therapy. Following an ACL tear, athletes in excellent physical shape can expect at least one year of healing and rehabilitation before tentative resumption of athletic competition. Attempting to play sports on a knee with a torn ACL can lead to severe damage to the knee’s medial collateral ligament.

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