How important is return to sport clearance?
Prior to starting sport activities after ACL reconstruction an athlete needs to be cleared by their orthopedic surgeon. Research shows that returning to sports activities without surgeon clearance can almost double chances of re-injury to the surgical leg and greatly decreases an athlete’s potential to attain the same level of pre-injury play. Chances of injury to the non-surgical leg also increase due to asymmetry and compensation if an athlete returns to sports prematurely.
What is return to sport clearance?
Before clearing an athlete to return to sport activities a surgeon will ensure that the athlete has full strength and range of motion and does not have pain or swelling. The athlete then completes a battery of tests on both legs which involve running, jumping, and agility drills that simulate sport activities. The results are then compared with the non surgical leg and must be within a few percentage points of symmetry. If near symmetry is not achieved between the surgical leg and non surgical leg, the athlete continues rehab and the tests are taken again.
Sport Specific Rehab
It is imperative for sport specific training to be incorporated into the final phase of rehab after ACL reconstruction. These activities included gradual progression of running, jumping, agility and balance activities that prepare the athlete to pass the clearance tests and return to full practice and play of their sport. Discuss sport sport specific rehab and return to sport clearance with your surgeon and ensure that both are incorporated into your physical therapy rehab plan. This is crucial to attaining or surpassing your pre-injury level of competition and preventing recurrence of knee injury as you continue participation in sports at any level.
Written by: Josh Staggs PT, DPT, CSCS