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Zac’s ACL Journey

At 16 years old playing Rugby League was my livelihood and basically the only thing I took completely seriously. Unfortunately, I sustained an all-to-familiar ACL rupture at a training camp during my regular off-season.I then underwent the typical acute ACL injury pathway:

  1. Appointment with my GP
  2. MRI to confirm the degree of structural damage
  3. Referral to a knee specialist
  4. Surgery

Following my surgical procedure, I then underwent a challenging 13 months of rehabilitation under a physiotherapist prior to returning to Rugby League.My return to sport was not as successful as my specialist, physiotherapist and I anticipated… to our surprise I went out and reinjured my ACL during my first game back.To most that above sentence is enough to elicit nightmares, but, as a physiotherapist I can confidently say there were multiple factors that likely contributed to my reinjury.

  1. ACL rehabilitation was not as in depth and well researched at my time of injury.
  2. We relied on gym exercises to test my strength symmetry (in comparison to now using high tech force devices to gain accurate measurements).
  3. My first game back was a representative trial match (no one should ever return in a trial match environment or attempt to play a full game straight away).

For anybody currently undergoing rehabilitation for an ACL injury, you can rest assured the processes and protocols followed currently by physiotherapist are more greatly researched and implemented compared to when I went through my rehabilitation.I think one of the most common things I hear clinically when somebody injures their ACL is “when will I be able to return to sport”. My typical stance is that whilst 12 months is a recognized benchmark, not everybody can tick all boxes to ensure a safe return to sport in this timeframe. You must trust your physiotherapists judgement for holding you back, it’s in our best interest to minimise your chance of re-injury and ensure the safest possible return to the sport.On a final note, don’t beat yourself up during your rehabilitation journey. It’s long, it’s slow and it’s mentally taxing. As a physio, as much as we want you smashing your rehab, we understand you’re human and that sometimes you need to take a step back to reset. As a former ACL rehab patient, I know how important this can be along the journey.

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