Three key advances have dramatically shortened ACL recovery time for UGA football players: post-injury treatment, surgical procedure, and innovative rehabilitation. Because an ACL injury used to jeopardize an athlete’s career, it’s important to build confidence to make a complete recovery.
At one time, an ACL injury could mark the beginning of the end for an athlete’s career. The recovery process could last several months.
And that’s if the ACL injury is the only incident. It would take even more rehab sessions and time off the field to recover from multiple injuries. With the right – or in the case the unfortunately wrong – timing, an ACL injury could seriously jeopardize an athlete’s career.
According to a recent article by Seth Emerson from college football magazine The Athletic, long ACL recoveries are a thing of the past for Ron Courson and the University of Georgia football team. With advances in treatment methods, athletes can get back on their feet quicker than ever.
“The more players who suffered knee injuries, and the bigger deal it became in athletics, the more creative that athletic trainers became in finding ways to help the athlete come back.” – Seth Emerson, The Athletic
Emerson cites three key advances that have dramatically shortened ACL recovery time for UGA football players: post-injury treatment, surgical procedure, and innovative rehabilitation.
1. Early, Post-injury Treatment for ACL Injury
The old way of treating ACL injuries put the athlete on the operating table right away. It seemed logical to do the surgery as soon as possible, as the first step in treatment. However, immediate surgery caused more stress on the injury.
Instead, more treatments begin with pre-op sessions that focus on the athlete’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Because an ACL injury used to jeopardize an athlete’s career, it’s important to build the athlete’s confidence in their ability to make a quick and complete recovery.
2. Surgical Procedure
Originally, ACL surgery was more invasive. Large incisions made the overall recovery process even longer. But now, surgical technology allows for smaller incisions, according to the article. This makes for less stress on the injury site, and ultimately, a faster recovery.
3. Rehabilitation Techniques
According to the article, it’s rehabilitation modalities and technology that can make the biggest difference in ACL recovery.
The key to Courson’s ACL recoveries is eccentric exercise. In this interview, Courson describes a smooth and speedy ACL recovery with NFL Running Back Todd Gurley using the eccentric-only Eccentron.
Eccentric-only rehabilitation has brought other star athletes back to the field. Hall of Fame Shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. talks about how negative resistance can create positive clinic outcomes in this video.
Because the Eccentron uses only eccentric movements and negative resistance, athletes can safely handle 30-40% more weight, while using less energy than a concentric system. On the other hand, concentric systems, such as an elliptical or stair stepper, would require the athlete to push (concentrically) against a footpad. This movement puts more strain on the injury.
Like eccentric exercise, blood flow restriction therapy for ACL recovery also requires very little energetic output.
Blood flow restriction therapy allows the athlete to reach muscular fatigue with minimal loading. Pressurized cuffs around the upper or lower parts of the limb restrict venous blood flow from the limb, not arterial flow into the muscle.
Blood flow restriction with exercise has proven to increase muscle strength and mass. This technique gaining interest in rehabilitation research and practice, as its exact mechanisms are unknown.
Combining these three advancements – early post-injury treatment, surgical procedures, and eccentric rehabilitation – are consistently helping Ron Courson get UGA collegiate athletes back on the field faster. According to the article, ACL recovery for Courson’s players is now down to about 6 months, sometimes even less time.
To learn more about Ron Courson’s ACL treatment successes, read Seth Emerson’s article, ‘Inside the training room: How Georgia is getting players back so soon from knee injuries’ from The Athletic.