AS AN ORTHOPEDIC surgeon specializing in sports medicine, the timing of when a player can "return to sport" is one of the most frequently asked questions of me – from the patients themselves, their parents (if they're minors) and from the media, especially if I'm being interviewed about a professional athlete. The answer is rarely the same, and I'm sure you can understand why. Recovery is as unique to the individual as is their genetic makeup – it really does depend on a wide variety of factors. However, for many common orthopedic injuries, there's usually a fairly consistent timeline for return to sport or active living. In the interest of providing at least some answer to this frequently asked question, we'll dive into it here.
Out of curiosity, I sometimes visit the internet and type in search terms I think my patients might use when they're "paging Dr. Google," often in an effort to see what kind of misinformation is out there and how I can help correct it. Interestingly enough, when I begin to type in "ACL…," Google smart-populates my search with this first option: "ACL recovery timeline." I find this curious mainly because that pops up before "ACL tear." We sure are an impatient society, aren't we? Before we want to know about the injury itself, we want to know how long it's going to take to heal. Hurry up already!