ACL injury is one of the most common traumatic sports medicine injuries seen in Boulder Physical Therapy practice. For patients who elect for surgical repair post operative Physical Therapy is key to facilitating a safe return to activity and sports. Common limitations for individuals returning to activity after ACL repair include: a loss of range of motion, balance and agility impairments, as well as, hip and quadricep weakness. The quadriceps are key muscles in maintaining strength and stability of the knee joint and when healthy improve weight bearing across the knee joint surfaces. Abnormal weight bearing in the knee joint leads to a decrease in joint space and increases the likelihood of knee osteoarthritis development. When undergoing surgical procedures of the knee, any effort to decrease progression of post-traumatic osteoarthritis should be taken.
Previous research has shown patients who sustain an ACL tear, treated either with PT or surgery, have an increased risk of knee arthritis. A recent study examined the cartilage and joint health of patients who had undergone ACL surgery (Pietrosimone et al. 2017). Consistent with prior research, authors found a decrease in quadricep strength in individuals 6 months after ACL repair. Concurrently, the authors found a greater T1p relaxation time within the joint which is a key marker of articular cartilage health. Thus, patients with quadricep weakness demonstrated decreased joint health compared to their stronger post operative peers. This emphasizes the importance of restoring quadricep strength after ACL surgery in order to optimize cartilage and joint health.