Returning to sport following ACL surgery

Returning to sport following ACL surgery is a long-haul requiring respect to healing and dedication to rehabilitation. If everything goes perfectly then returning to sport should take around 9 months. This takes into account healing time and time to build up strength and fitness. 

For the average person that receives an ACL reconstruction, the time frame to return to sport is quite unpredictable. This being because the average person does not get paid to do their rehab and life can throw many hurdles in the way of a structured 9-months rehabilitation program.

Pathways to returning to sport into 5 categories

  1. Recovery from surgery
  2. Regain strength and balance
  3. Regain Agility, Speed and landing skills
  4. Return to Sport
  5. Prevention of Re-injury

The first step takes 1-2 weeks depending on how your body responds to surgery. Complete a pre-habilitation program improve this step and improve comfort post-surgery. The time frame to regain strength and balance is 12-24 weeks post-surgery. Benchmarks are set to help progression to the next phase. It is important to have equal leg strength prior to progressing to the next step.

Regaining Agility, Speed and Landing should take from 6 months to 2 years. This part of rehabilitation can be severely different particularly with meniscus damage during the knee accident. A series of jumping and hopping tests determine whether it is safe to return to sport. Subjective questionnaires are also used to determine readiness to return to sport.

Return to sport is the 4th phase. Start in a lower division or on the interchange bench for a few months to build up match fitness. Ensure prevention of reinjury with an injury prevention program in the warmup such as the FIFA11+ and PEP.