Approximately over 250,000 people tear their ACL every year, with the most at-risk population being young female athletes.1 Despite being a common injury, every ACL reconstruction rehabilitation is different. Protocols depend on graft type, concomitant injuries like meniscus or MCL, and surgeon preference. For this reason, ACL protocols need to be a combination of both criteria-based and time-based. From a criteria-based perspective, physical therapists need to make sure athletes can get back to squatting, jumping, landing, cutting, and all other sport-related tasks with good mechanics to set them up for success as they return to sports. From a time-based perspective, physical therapists need to consider tissue healing time and appropriate tissue loading. Each athlete achieves their objective criteria at different times. It can take anywhere from 6 months to 24 months post op for athletes to get back to full participation, with a majority of athletes returning to sport between the 9- and 12-month mark.
Athletes in every sport take measures to reduce their risk of getting an injury. Soccer players wear shin guards to protect their shins, weight lifters activate targeted muscles with light weights before moving onto heavier loads, and sprinters warm up their muscles by progressively increasing their speed. You didn’t need to read this blog to know any of that, but it sets up an important idea. Proper preparation can reduce the chance of an unwanted injury.