When I had my ACL replacement surgery now almost three years ago, the doctors told me that the key to the rehab was consistency and an appropriate level of loading. Going surfing at three months was a surefire way to have it tear again, but not pushing too hard was likely going to result in an incomplete recovery. (And that’s just the purely physical part, without touching on perhaps the biggest piece, the mental aspect.)
In my case that meant ten days of basically nothing (ice ice baby), about a month before starting to go back to the gym for basic exercises, two months before starting to get more aggressive with weights and running, and almost six months before anything more complex that might include twisting and loading. (Then the pandemic hit, so it was another year before I was able to start getting back to playing.)
Obviously, I’m not a professional athlete who can (and needs to) fully dedicate themselves 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to this one task and one task only — and also has access to the best modern recovery techniques, equipment, and trainers. And also everyone’s different and timelines shift based on progress. But considering that it’s been just a little over five (5!) months since Ben Chilwell’s ACL surgery, he’s been making tremendous headway. That it’s not even an entirely unreasonable question whether he will play this season is remarkable already.
Fortunately, we’re not rushing him back, as Thomas Tuchel assures us.
“He has trained with the Under-16s and Under-18s to have football sessions. It is nice to see him, he is very positive, and he cannot wait to start and be in the team training again. It is still not the time but it is very important that he is that positive and that everything goes in the right way with the patience we need.
“We are expecting that [he won’t return this season], nothing else. There are no expectations towards this season, we will not rush things. It is too important that the knee gets its time to heal.
“Ben knows it is important that we do not take risks now, we expect him in shape and to have his best energy for the preparation in July and then hopefully he can find his form back, because you never know with a big injury. We are so happy he is back.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Chelsea 5th Stand
Chelsea’s best period this season, through October and November, were the dozen games that Chilwell actually got to play — yes, he only got to make 12 appearances, only half of which came in the Premier League — and getting him back will certainly be a boost. But recovering from such a major injury and surgery is never straightforward, and full recovery, both mentally and physically, can often take more time than just actual rehab timeframe.
Making sure that Chilwell does fully recover is imperative, and being patient with the final steps, be they now, in the summer, or early next season, will be key to complete and lasting recovery — and future success.