An ACL injury can be a traumatic experience. These three tips will help you manage your injury and keep your mental health in check.


An ACL injury can be a major setback for athletes, soldiers, and people who lead active lifestyles. It can keep you from doing the things you love, pursuing the career of your dreams, and even affecting your day-to-day life. The way you walk and move around changes after an ACL tear, and that’s just the start of the life-altering effects. What seems like a simple knee injury has been shown in studies to affect brain structure too.

An ACL injury doesn’t have to derail your life though. There are steps you can take to speed up recovery time, adjust to a new lifestyle, and improve your quality of life. Start by taking three simple steps.

1 – Keep active

After an ACL injury, many people believe that they will be unable to participate in any activity due to a perceived inability or anxiousness to further harm their body.

While you may need to take a break from your old pastime, it is critical that you remain as active as possible. Research has indicated that those who continue to be active and exercise throughout the duration of their rehabilitation experience a better quality of life than those who do not. Being physically active can help decrease stress levels, reduce depression symptoms, improve moods and sleep patterns, as well as promote overall health!

Active rehabilitation is an important part of recovery from any injury, but it is especially crucial when dealing with a ligament, such as the ACL. There are numerous activities that you can take part in, even in the earlier stages of rehab. These activities, while less strenuous, can keep you physically active and allow you to reap the psychological rewards of that activity.

It is important that you use some form of activity; please reach out if you have questions or concerns about an activity you have in mind. Some examples of activities that you can do early in the ACL process are bowling, swimming (after stitches are removed), walking while listening to podcasts, using the rowing machine, appropriate yoga poses, and juggling.

These are a few of the many different activities that you can partake in to keep active, improve your cardiovascular health, and improve hand-eye coordination. Don’t let a torn knee ligament stop you from living a healthy lifestyle.

2 – Focus on your immediate goals

It is extremely important to set realistic goals in order for you to achieve them. It is not uncommon for people who suffer an ACL injury to have a difficult time recovering from their injury, because they are looking too far into the future without taking into account what it will take today or tomorrow to get there!

Any workout regimen takes time to take effect. You’ll often hear retired professional fighters talk about how it would take a year or longer to get themselves back into fighting shape. And that’s for someone who is perfectly healthy; torn ACL recovery time is even more difficult.

The first few weeks and months after an ACL injury can be difficult as you adapt to your new situation, and there is no overnight success. Physical Training and specialized exercises may be necessary to return to a sense of normalcy.

It is important to focus on the small goals that will get you closer to your ultimate goal. For example, walking without a brace, jogging for a minute or two without pain, increasing the weight lifted in rehabilitation exercises, or even taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Celebrate your accomplishments, no matter how small they may seem.

3 – Pick up a new skill

I took my time going through ACL rehabilitation to increase my understanding of my sport and perfect my form for non-weight-bearing activities.

For example, I worked tirelessly on hand-fighting. As a football player, this was paramount to my success. Prior to my injury, I heavily leaned on my athleticism and quickness to evade offensive linemen. After my injury, I was able to gain a new skill by perfecting a number of moves that I had never been able to utilize before thanks to my increased time and a few hyper-focused goals.

It is crucial to focus on the things you CAN work on while injured, not what you can’t. This mindset allowed me to become a student of my sport, as well as a better athlete, teammate, and leader on the team. It also led me to understand what I wanted to do professionally, which was to assist others who are in situations I was previously in to thrive.

Keep these 3 tips in mind as you undergo rehabilitation to prevent your injury from derailing your life. Remember to be active, focus on short-term objectives, and learn a new skill! For more information about my blog, visit my website or contact me directly.

About the Author

Hi there! I’m Dr. Keagen Hadley, OTD, OTR/L. Straight out of the University of Mary, I’m all about blending my know-how in knee health, well-being, and medical technology. As a licensed occupational therapy doc, I’m here to translate complex concepts into clear, actionable insights – whether it’s knee care or groundbreaking healthcare tech.

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