This is a series on how to prepare for, how to recover from, and how to return stronger from ACL surgery, physically and mentally. It covers everything from logistics pre-surgery to physical therapy to back-to-sport. It especially focuses on rock climbing.

The Series

Other Articles on training during recovery

Kettlebell Series
Kettlebells are about the best functionally-similar exercise for rock climbing and will allow you to drastically build strength and power for falling without actual impact. They fast-forwarded my recovery by 6 months. I highly endorse them for recovery, not just for legs, but for climbing shoulders and warmup.

My Story

Surgery #1: I tore my ACL from a fluke bouldering fall in 2014 (I'm female and was 31). My feet were 5 feet of the ground, but I was tired from the workday, not paying attention, and landed at an angle between catching myself and taking the fall on my butt. I had ACL reconstruction surgery using a cadaver patella bone-tendon-bone graft.

I was a perfect student in PT and hit every recovery milestone. At month 9, I started bouldering again, took an 8 ft fall perfectly-balanced onto 2 feet, then onto my butt, and heard the dreaded pop.

Surgery #2: I opted to wait 6 months before having surgery again. I went on a sport climbing trip sans-ACL for 3 months, then did pre-surgery PT for 3 months. I used my own hamstring graft for my 2nd surgery in January 2016 and have been very happy with it.

Sources - Please Contribute!

If you've torn your ACL, please fill out this survey about your graft choice and your recovery path! Remember how little information there was on climbing when you went through surgery? Please take 3 min for 10 questions. Summary results are in the link when you submit or at this link.

I've compiled the information in this series in sincere hope that as few people need it as possible. It's everything I've gathered from research, from folks who've gone through surgery (some twice like me), and from surgeons, physical therapists, and radiologists.

I'm not in the medical profession and must say that you should consult with your surgeon and PT for your case-specific needs. Everyone's recovery journey is different, but this provides a ton of information to guide you! If you have questions or more information, please contact me!

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