ACL Return to Sport and Physical Therapy Attendance

As ACL injuries continue to rise among professional and recreational athletes Physical Therapists will continue to rehabilitate these athletes in order to allow them to safely return to sports.  In our practice in Boulder, we commonly see athletes over the course of 6-9 months post operatively as they develop the strength, balance, and sport specific movements necessary to return to their prior levels of activity.  Early in the rehabilitation of an ACL surgery attendance at Physical Therapy is extremely important as we reduce inflammation, swelling, pain, and improve ROM.  In the final stages of the program athletes are seen less frequently in clinic, but instead continue to work hard on their home exercise program (HEP) at the gym.  This program is an essential part of any Physical Therapy episode of care and compliance with a HEP has been shown to improve patient's outcomes.   

Recently a study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine highlighted the importance of a patient's compliance with their Physical Therapist's plan of care (Han et al. 2016).  The authors analyzed 93 athletes who underwent ACL reconstruction surgery and then followed them through their Physical Therapy.  The authors were interested in how a patient's compliance with their Physical Therapy sessions impacted their return to sport.  Compliance was assessed as full (attending > 15 sessions), moderate (attending 6-15 sessions), or non compliant (attending <6 sessions).  Patients deemed fully and moderately compliant were 19 and 4 times more likely to return to sport at 1 year, respectively, compared to those in the non compliant group.   

Attendance at Physical Therapy is essential for recovery from many athletic injuries.  These sessions allow the Physical Therapist to deliver appropriate treatments and provide the education a patient will need to self manage their condition.