King of Pain: Steadman's Secrets

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Most major knee injuries take six to eight months to heal—if you do everything right, says leading knee surgeon Dr. Richard Steadman of Vail's world-renowned Steadman Hawkins Clinic. Here, Steadman walks you through five steps to a successful recovery.

1 Don't hobble around. "Be very careful immediately after the injury," Steadman says. He suggests using braces or crutches to keep from inflicting further damage.

2 See an experienced practitioner and request an MRI, which can provide information about the whole joint. "Frequently with an ACL tear, there's also damage to bone or cartilage," Steadman says. "An MRI will make that clear."

3 Find a therapist and a doctor who can work together as a team.

4 Schedule the surgery carefully. "One of the biggest things we've learned recently is that the environment of the joint at the time of surgery is very important," Steadman says. "If the knee is tender and swollen, it's probably better to wait."

5 Work with your therapist to gain stability and mobility before starting strength exercises. "In the last few years, we've discovered that if you work on strength before mobility, you're more likely to have degeneration later," Steadman says.