The ACL is one of four ligaments in the knee and is vital in creating knee stability. Basketball players rely so much on their knees that any type of instability would leave them unable to perform at a high level.
The surgery for this procedure is very common, and the patients who have this surgery almost never have problems again.
Surgeons will go into the knee, locate the torn ligament and remove it. Another ligament from the patient's body will be taken and put in place of the torn ACL. The surgeons will use a ligament that does not hinder the patient's physical abilities.
Rehab from this procedure is a hard and long process. For the first couple of weeks, Rubio will not be doing any type of motion. He will be focused on keeping the leg elevated, icing the knee to reduce swelling and managing pain. This normally takes up to two weeks.
Once the swelling has gone down, simple range of motion exercises can begin. The first exercise of choice for rehab on the knee is riding a stationary bike. This is a very low-impact exercise that will begin to loosen up the stiffness in the knee.
All through these first couple weeks of low-impact rehab, the physical therapist will be measuring the range of motion in Rubio's knee. Once the range of motion gets between 90 and 110 degrees, the rehab process will begin to add weighted exercises, and the first group of these will be body weight exercises, such as simple squats.
As Rubio progresses through the rehab process, the range of motion in the knee will continue to improve. Eventually, they will be adding leg presses and squats with weights.
The last part of the rehab process will be doing activities that mimic the sport of the athlete. In Rubio's case, these activities involve running, quick starting and stopping, and pivoting.
Once all of these activities can be accomplished pain-free, Rubio will be considered cleared to return to the NBA. Unfortunately, this lengthy process can take up to 14 weeks, which will be past the end of this basketball season.
Rubio was having a great year for Minnesota, and it is sad to see him go down with a season-ending injury. If there is a silver lining in all of this, it is that he should be able to play without any indication of having this injury next year. Hopefully, he will be able to pick up right where he left off.
Louie Babcock has more than five years of experience in emergency medicine and is studying biology and health science at the University of Minnesota.