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Getting Back to Life After Surgery


How do I know when I’m ready to return to sport after my ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) Reconstruction?

Unfortunately, Australia has the highest reported rate of ACL injuries in the world, and this rate has risen by 70% in the last 15 years in those under the age of 25. The reasons for this are complex! But if you have torn your ACL, had surgery and gone through the rigours of rehab, how do you know if you are ready to return to sport?

There is most certainly not a black and white answer to this question, but here are three basic rules of thumb we recommend:

  1. Clearance from your surgeon It is essential to have a final check before returning to full-contact sport to ensure the graft has held, and structurally the knee is intact. This generally occurs at around 9-12 months post-surgery.

  2. Good quality hopping mechanics Being able to propel and land with good mechanics are vital for return to sport. Yes, it is important to achieve the hopping markers in the mentioned tests, but the quality of how you perform these tests is equally as important. Your physiotherapist can assess this and make sure you are on track. We commence hopping drills around 2–6 months post-surgery, depending on the patient. Examples of these can be found in a blog post on our website!

  3. Adequate strength numbers We use comparisons to your other side and also strength markers that are appropriate for the level and type of sport you play. You can’t go wrong getting strong, and this is most certainly the case with ACL rehab. Having a weak system after your surgery is not going to help anyone and could predispose you to re-injuring your knee, or another structure such as the Achilles, groin or hamstring. A few (of many!) tests we use include the single leg press and the use of electromyography (EMG) to ensure your inner quad muscle is active and strong enough.

Your health and cardiovascular fitness, confidence in your knee as well as your overall movement mechanics (i.e. how your body moves as a functional unit) are also vital factors that your physio will help you address when getting back into your chosen sport.

If you have had ACL surgery or have any questions about this article, come and see us! We have specialised in working with weekend warriors up to professional athletes. Check out our blog at www.nextgenphysio.com.au/blog for more tips and advice.

Words: Tom Russell - NextGen Physio

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