Immediately after an ACL injury or surgery it is not always possible to put your full body weight on your leg. You are likely to need crutches for a certain amount of time. But when is it safe to start walking without crutches? You may be concerned about hurting your knee again but would also like to begin working towards the activities you love doing as soon as possible. Crutches should be used until you’ve built enough strength and flexibility through rehabilitation strengthening exercises. Joreitz et al., (2016) recommend starting with two crutches then progressing to only one crutch and finally getting rid of them entirely. Generally, this will take between 10-14 days for most people (Grinsven et al., 2010). The exact timeline might be different for your injury. There are however, a few criteria that should be met before you are able to stop using crutches:
· The ability to straighten the knee fully
· The ability to bend the knee more than 90 degrees
· Being able to stand and walk without pain without the cruthces
· Enough strengthening of the muscles of the knee
Once again, the rate of recovery will differ from individual to individual. It can depend on many factors. For instance how well you stick to your rehabilitation exercises, the degree of ACL tear, if the cartilage (called meniscus) was also damaged during the injury. Damage to other structures like your meniscus may lengthen this process. It is also important to note whether you are able to walk without a limp and without relying heavily on your un-injured leg (Grinsven et al., 2010). If you meet the criteria listed above you may be able to begin transitioning out of using crutches. However, it is important to consult with your physical therapist to help you decide when you are ready to stop using crutches.
1. Joreitz R, Lynch A, Raadbuck S, Lynch B, Davin S, Irrgang J. Patient- specific and surgery- specific factors that affect return to sport after ACL reconstruction. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2016;11(2):264-278.