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Knee recovery is generally good, in time

October 21, 2002|Stephanie Oakes | Special to The Times

I've just injured my knee (an ACL tear) and was curious about the most-common knee injury. Is this injury related to any specific sports? And what's recovery like after surgery?

A tear in the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is indeed one of the most prevalent sports-related knee problems (along with tears in the meniscus, the cartilage that cushions the joint). The ACL, which connects the tibia to the femur and helps stabilize the knee, is often torn during skiing, soccer, basketball or other activities that involve jumping and turning.

Simple tendinitis recovery can last four to eight weeks, according to Dr. Laith Farjo, a Michigan orthopedic surgeon who lectures nationally. But if reconstruction is required, recovery can take three to six months, depending on the type of treatment, and it usually requires significant physical therapy.

Recovery time is usually quicker with arthroscopic surgery than with a more invasive operation. But prior level of activity, dedication to rehab and general health also play a role in recovery time.

The good news is that most people can return to their favorite activities, with some limitations. People who need surgery but opt not to have it, Farjo says, often can't return to the previous level of exertion. But normal daily activities should present few problems.

What if you want to use a stability ball as a chair in the office (balancing while working). Should the ball be bigger?

The stability ball does make a perfect chair, and the size used for your lower-back exercises and balance work should be fine. Most manufacturers have size charts to help you choose an appropriate size.

Using a stability ball as a chair can help align your body naturally and can easily be used at work or home. (My husband bought five big stability balls for his colleagues so he wouldn't be the only person sitting on one.)

Be advised, though: You will be forced to use your stabilizing "core" muscles, so stretch periodically to loosen up. Some newer, specially designed balls have feet-like protrusions that prevent the ball from rolling too much.


Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. Send questions by e-mail to She cannot respond to every query.

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