Return to Hockey after ligament reconstruction

Physiotherapy in Richmond for Knee

Q: I am the goalie for our high school ice hockey team. I just had surgery to reconstruct the ligament on the inside of my knee. Practice begins in another two months. Will I be able to get back on the ice by then?

A: From the very start of recovery and rehab, patients who have had this type of surgery are warned to be patient. It can take up to nine months before they can get back to full speed on the field, ice, or court.

But you will be busy all that time training and likely better than ever once you do rejoin the team. What will you be doing? After surgery, early motion and strengthening are the keys to a good result. A physiotherapist will guide you through the necessary exercises and offer advice regarding precautions. A hinged brace is used right away that allows protected movement.

The therapist supervises and progresses the rehab program on a week-by-week basis. Usually full weight-bearing is achieved around six to seven weeks after surgery. Special attention will be given to the way you walk as it is important to restore a normal gait (walking) pattern without any compensatory movements.

Strengthening exercises are performed until full knee motion and joint stability are restored. Another aspect of rehab is proprioceptive training. Proprioceptive exercises are designed to restore the knee's accurate sense of position.

It's important that the knee respond to the tiniest bit of motion in order to prevent future injuries. As a goalie, you can appreciate how important this feature is given the stress and strain on the inside of your knees with some of the positions you have to assume.

Eventually it will be possible to walk for two miles at a fast pace without a limp. At that point, jogging, squatting, and plyometrics are introduced. Plyometrics involve making fast changes with momentum (speed). Again, this will be an important part of restoring your full function as a goalie responding to the speed of the puck coming at you.

Reference: Coen A. Wijdicks, PhD, et al. Injuries to the Medial Collateral Ligament and Associated Medial Structures of the Knee. In The Journal of Bone & Joint Surgery. May 2010. Vol. 92-A. No. 5. Pp. 1266-1280.

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