This Month in Sports Rehabilitation: ACL Rehabilitation (Sept. 2011)
Contact Sports Rehabilitation
Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are common to sports such as soccer, basketball and football. In the United States more than 200,000 people sustain ACL injuries each year and two-thirds of all ACL tears come from cutting, pivoting and landing from a jump - not from sports contact.
Most ACL tears require surgical reconstruction to return athletes to their desired level of activity prior to injury, and recovery time is typically six to 12 months. Eighty-two percent of athletes who suffer ACL tears return to sport but only 63 percent recover fully to their pre-injury level, and changes in landing mechanics are frequently still detectable more than two years after surgery, which puts the athlete's healthy knee at risk.
UW Health's ACL Rehabilitation Program
UW Health Sports Rehabilitation features a specialized group of physical therapists and athletic trainers to work with athletes following ACL surgery. Our staff understands the biomechanics of the knee and what athletes need to do to return to sports safely, and works closely with our program's fellowship-trained Sports Medicine surgeons.
The ACL rehabilitation process starts prior to surgery. Athletes undergo stability testing of both knees alongside pre-surgical rehabilitation to decrease swelling and regain strength and mobility. Post-operatively, our rehabilitation program uses a criterion-based approach (pdf) that emphasizes early return of mobility, strength and function while concentrating on proper alignment and mechanics.
Post-operative testing of knee stability, strength and function such as the hop tests (see video) guide athletes' return to sports-specific activities. In addition to strengthening exercises, our rehabilitation program includes re-training on quick changes-of-direction and unanticipated movements - movement in response to something.
UW Health Sports Rehabilitation also offers Performance Spectrum, a progressive, three-phase program that integrates sports training and functional rehabilitation and is designed specifically for the post-operative ACL.