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What Is a Successful ACL Reconstruction Surgery? [Adrian Peterson]

December 30, 2011

Minnesota Vikings Pro Bowl running back Adrian Peterson suffered a season-ending injury in his game with the Washington Redskins last Saturday. Fortunately for him and the Vikings, who weren’t in playoff contention to begin with, there is only one game left in the season.

The injury and the surgery that he underwent today and the rehabilitation that must follow, however, does put his 2012 season in doubt. The typical time for recovery from a ACL surgery, if successful, is anywhere from 8-11 months.

Some players have been able to shorten that recovery time, but regardless, with the 2012 season starting in August, even if Peterson were able to recover fully getting back up to professional playing speed is doubtful given the time frame. It is possible to return to top performance shape after ACL surgery with the right conditions, both those vary.  This is one of the reasons head coach and team doctors for Peterson are non-committal about his true return.

It’s just so hard to tell.

For instance, the full extend of Peterson’s injury wasn’t discovered until days after the injury. While it was understood that he did damage the ACL, he also tore the medial and lateral meniscus and further medial collateral ligament (MCL) damage, too, which complicates the ACL treatment and recovery. The team tentatively hopes for a 2012 return.

Peterson was originally scheduled to undergo surgery next Tuesday, but due to the excrutiating pain he was undergoing they moved up the surgery to today. No doubt the torn menisci contributed to the pain.

According to Viking’s head coach Leslie Frazier, the surgery was successful, which raises the question: what is a successful ACL reconstruction surgery?

By reminder, ACL reconstruction surgery involves the creation of a new ligament which is then attached to your knee. We can assume that this is what happened with Peterson. He has a knew ligament, the other injuries will be allowed to heal on their own, depending on their severity. Whether the menisci was operated on is not known.

How long it takes to heal depends on a few factors, like protecting the knee and allowing it plenty of time to rest. Those are factors that you have control over. What you don’t have control over is your own body and how it responds to the surgery.

So the going time is 8-11 months for such an injury.

In my professional opinion, though Peterson is critical for the success of the Vikings, it would benefit the team and Peterson in the long run to keep him out for as long as possible. Rushing the healing of an injury, as see with trying to install Sam Bradford too soon into the line up, can only agravate the injury and lead to long-term chronic pain.

As noted before, most second knee surgeries fail. I do believe this is Petersons’ first.

Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer. He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.

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