Surgery is the most appropriate long-term treatment for some ACL tears. In these cases, the surgeon will remove the torn anterior cruciate ligament and create a new one using a graft.

Below are the most common materials used to make an ACL grafts, each with unique benefits.

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Patellar tendon autograft

Patellar tendon. A patellar tendon autograft utilizes the patient’s own tendon to replace the torn ACL, and is beneficial because of its inherent rapid healing.

Hamstring graft

Hamstring tendon. Autografts using the patient’s hamstring have become increasingly more common because they are not associated with anterior knee pain as in autografts.

Cadaver tendon. Allografts, which are the utilization of cadaver tendons, are preferred by some surgeons because they do not require removal of the patient’s own tendon.

No specific graft type has proven to be superior aside from that with which a particular surgeon is most experienced.

ACL Surgery Recovery

Post-operative rehabilitation is essential to maximize long-term outcomes, emphasizing range of motion, strength, balance, proprioception, and core strength.

See Simple Exercises to Restore Proprioception and Advanced Exercises to Restore Proprioception

While formal physical therapy programs are often recommended, a particularly motivated individual may achieve equally positive results from a home exercise program. Some surgeons recommend the use of knee braces; however there is no evidence demonstrating improved outcomes with their use.

Generally, an athlete can return to his or her sport between 6 and 12 months following surgery. Only the orthopedic surgeon can determine when it is safe to return to athletic activities. Returning too soon can put the new ACL graft at risk.