Exercises to Avoid when Recovering from an ACL Injury

by Joan Barker

Making a full recovery from an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is possible. However, a grade 3 ACL sprain, which is equivalent to a torn ligament needs to undergo surgery. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons specified that it requires a tissue graft, which is usually sourced from a tendon. It’s used to reconstruct the severed ligament. Coming back from the injury may take up to six months or more, and physical therapy is prescribed to speed up recovery. Here are two types of exercises that you should avoid at certain stages of recovery from a torn ACL.

Weight-bearing Exercises:

The first few weeks will have you relying on crutches. It will be impossible and/or painful—not to mention ill-advised—to perform weight-bearing exercises. Examples are lunges and squats. You should instead focus on reintroducing range of motion. It’s still possible to maintain quad strength by contracting the muscles around the knee (AKA isometric contractions) without moving the injured joint.

Terminal Knee Extension:

The knee is a hinge type joint, which means it can flex and extend. Fitness writer and health buff Jan Millehan explains that terminal knee extension (TKE) is the action of straightening the leg fully to attain the end of range of motion. TKE is not a bad workout per se, but it can exert unnecessary stress on the knee, especially when using resistance bands, cables, or machines. Avoid doing TKE, heel raises, and leg balancing exercises (specifically the ones performed in yoga) until the swelling has subsided post-surgery. Start by doing heel slides where you aim to gently stretch the leg forward while keeping heel contact on the floor.

If you want to do cardiovascular exercises, swimming is a good form of workout. You can also experiment with indoor cycling, which Nashville Fit Magazine has labelled a high-intensity low-impact exercise in a recent article. Set the resistance of the bike to low in order to minimize stress on the knees. After doing mobility training and strength and conditioning, most patients are able to move on to light jogging after 3-4 months.

Those who perform high-impact sports such as soccer, football, and basketball are at a high risk of sustaining knee injuries particularly concerning the ACL. In the world of sports, it’s regarded as a career-changer, or even -ender, as many people have experienced. Point guard Derrick Rose, for instance, tore his ACL in 2012, causing him to miss the entire season that year. He was 22 at the time and had a promising career ahead of him. But in the years that followed, he never seemed to return to his full capacity as a basketball player.

Assessing an ACL injury is difficult, so seek medical attention immediately if you feel that there is something wrong with your knee, particularly inflammation. This was the case with another NBA superstar, Kevin Durant, in 2017. Yahoo Sports reported that the athlete’s suspected torn ACL was actually a grade 2 sprain to his medial collateral ligament (MCL). His MCL was only partially torn which required a shorter recovery period of 1-2 months. He missed 19 games last year, but came back strong and was instrumental in claiming the championship that season. Kevin Durant is one of the highest earning sports stars in the world with a salary of $54.3m. However, his career remains unmarred by injuries, though things could have been different if he experienced the same situational injury as Derrick Rose. During recovery, Durant reportedly shifted his exercise routine away from his knees, and focused instead in strengthening his quads and hamstrings, which is commonly the same approach to an ACL injury.

While you can’t predict what will happen after an ACL injury, you can remain disciplined during your downtime. Even if you aren’t making a career out of sports, avoid situations where you might completely destroy such an important ligament in your knee.

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Keep the Baby, Lose the Weight

by Megan Lynch

Pregnancy and childbirth can be harrowing experiences, leaving many women and men in our culture feeling marooned and bewildered. Well-meaning friends can unknowingly make things worse by encouraging these feelings. Women who have just accomplished the herculean task of labor and birth (with men by their sides) are often told to just do what they can to keep their heads above water, and hope for the best.

Nothing makes a new parent feel like a functioning human being again like radical self-care however. Far from just “making it work,” parents who get back into their fitness game can feel like their old self again and develop the patience and endurance needed to care for their little bundles of joy. But self-care after a baby can be tricky, and if you’re not careful, candy bars for dinner and hours on the couch can seem like reasonable choices.

Although some women go through special circumstances that make it even trickier – bedrest, for instance – the vast majority of us can become better parents and happier people by making sure to keep their own wellness a priority. Here are a few tips.

EXERCISE NOW

If you or your partner are still pregnant, that is. Even if you’ve spent the entire first (or second) trimester trying not to lose your lunch and didn’t make it to the gym once, it’s not too late to develop good habits. Exercising now will make it easier to go after the baby arrives.

If you need support, Blooma Nashville and Hot Yoga of East Nashville offer some fabulous prenatal yoga classes.

BREASTFEED, OR HELP HER BREASTFEED

Breast milk is essentially liquefied body fat, and although moms shouldn’t count on breastfeeding alone to zap away the evidence of their pregnancy cravings, it does help most women lose one or two pounds per month. Besides, the benefits of breast milk are out of control for both the baby and mother: it’s customized nutrition and medicine for the baby and cuts down on your own risk of developing breast cancer, to start.

Guys, you’re not off the hook here. Help create the ideal situation for your lady and newborn. Make it your mission to make sure she always has a glass of water, get a pillow to support the baby or her lower back, or just stick around and converse. Feeding the baby can be a lonely experience without you.

MEAL PLAN

At our hospital-hosted prenatal class, my husband and I were encouraged to order take-out after the baby arrived as a way to save time on cooking. The few times we did only made things worse. Who wants a stomachache and an energy crash when they’re already sleep-deprived? Not me.

Get a calendar, assign which one of you will cook, and plan your meals. It’ll give you more energy, save money, and give your life much-needed organization. Especially when the baby decides they’re going to be creating their very own new schedule.

SUPPORT EACH OTHER

The most important thing you can do as a new parent is respect your partner. Give them the time they need to workout. If they seem reluctant to leave the house, say the magic words: “I want to spend time with the baby.” Repeat this phrase as many times as it takes for them to pick up their gym bag and leave. Encourage your partner, ask them about their workouts, and tell them how great they look when they’re sweaty.

Your newborn baby may have a lot of needs, but their most important one is a happy and loving parent. Do yourself, your partner, and your baby a favor by making wellness an important family value early on so they can follow in your footsteps themselves.

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