Anterior Cruciate Ligament Tears: Surgery or Not To Surgery, That Is The Question


A new study published late last month in the New England Journal of Medicine discussed whether or not surgery was the best option for an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear. Most of the articles that I have read on this new study have made the recent results a bigger issue than it really is. For physical therapists and physicians, the option to avoid surgery has always been available to patients, depending on the individual’s goals and the physician’s recommendations.

About the Study

At Lund University in Sweden, 121 young, active adults who tore their ACL’s were randomly assigned into two groups. The first group started physical therapy, then underwent surgical reconstruction of the ACL. The second group received physical therapy only, with an option to undergo surgery at a later date. An option that 23 subjects in that group elected for eventually.

What wasn’t mentioned (because they probably don’t know) in the study, is how many more patients from the second group will eventually opt for ACL reconstruction? As a major stabilizer of the knee joint, if an individual wants to return to sport activities without further damaging other knee structures, an ACL is probably desired. If activity level is low and sagittal plane activities are the focus for the patient, then surgery may be optional.

From my experience as a PT, there have only been a few patients I have had that have elected to avoid ACL surgery. Most either choose immediately because of the lifestyle they want to return to, or because they find after a period of time that their knee discomfort persists.

About AlterG

FDA cleared and built on NASA technology, AlterG is changing the way people rehabilitate. Our unique technology allows you to run or walk at a fraction of your body weight, so you can dial in exactly where the pain stops and movement feels good again. Leading medical professionals are using AlterG to help their patients recover better and have a smoother return to activity.

While the data is still unclear, and the ultimate decision is up to the patient and their physician, we feel the AlterG can play a critical role in rehabilitation for either plan of care. The unique unweighting properties of the Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ can help restore ROM post-injury or post-surgery, allowing patients and their physical therapists to move on to the next crucial stage of rehabilitation. Strength and proprioception are critical in both the ACL-deficient and ACL-repaired knee to maintain joint stability and prevent further or future injury. By initiating early closed-kinetic chain rehabilitation with the AlterG, we can assist in this recovery process.

So while the decision to pursue surgery or not to pursue surgery is individualized on a case-by-case basis, we feel use of the AlterG is applicable to all. The only question you have to ask yourself is this: Are you ready to Defy Gravity?”