BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – As with other knee injuries, how you rehab from a torn ACL is critical to the overall success of the surgery to fix it.
Hundreds of thousands of ACL repair surgeries are done every year in the United States and women are more likely than men to suffer this painful accident.
We explain a very different approach to fixing this serious injury.
For 17 year old high school senior, Lia Roberson, basketball is her life.
"I started playing basketball when I was probably in the third grade," Lia shared.
Three different colleges recruited Lia with full basketball scholarships. But last July, in an instant, it looked like her playing days and her scholarships were gone.
Lia explained, "I felt a pop in my knee. I just felt like my leg was gone completely. A lot of tears between me and my parents."
But after ACL repair surgery, Lia couldn't wait to get back on the court. She went to a physical therapist who thinks restricting blood flow to the repaired knee may work better than traditional rehab.
He uses bands above her knee during workouts twice a week for 30 minutes.
"The idea is by restricting some of the blood flow, your body reacts to it and so consequently you release hormones and growth factors. It shortens their rehab. Hopefully takes them to a higher level of function," Kevin Wilk, DPT, PT, FAPTA, Founder of Champion Sports Medicine, told Ivanhoe.
Wilk says Lia can get as much out of her workout without putting stress on her injured knee.
She's still cheering her teammates from the sidelines, but Lia hopes the blood restricting rehab approach will help get her back on the court in a few weeks.
Wilk explains, "One of the goals was to try to get her going as quickly as possible and to get her to a level of function to prepare her for a college career."
To Lia that sounds like a slam dunk.
"Knowing that this detrimental injury, I'm able to come back and actually play again in college is like my dream is still there," Lia cheerfully shared.
Dr. Wilk says Kaatsu , a blood flow restricting training technique developed in Japan about 70 years ago, is where this current blood flow restriction approach originated.
Olympic athletes are even using the technique to stay in the game. Olympic lifter, Lindsey Stroker, uses blood flow restricting bands during squats to improve lower body strength.