Rehabilitation following anterior cruciate ligament injury: current recommendations for sports participation

Sports Med. 2004;34(4):269-80. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200434040-00006.


Knee ligament injuries often result in a premature end to a career in sports. The treatment after rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) may be operative or conservative. In both cases, the goal is to reach the best functional level for the patient without risking new injuries or degenerative changes in the knee. Return to high level of athletic activity has been an indicator of treatment success. Rehabilitation is an important part of the treatment. Knowledge of healing processes and biomechanics in the knee joint after injury and reconstruction, together with physiological aspects on training effects is important for the construction of rehabilitation programmes. Current rehabilitation programmes use immediate training of range of motion. Weight bearing is encouraged within the first week after an ACL reconstruction. Commonly, the patients are allowed to return to light sporting activities such as running at 2-3 months after surgery and to contact sports, including cutting and jumping, after 6 months. In many cases, the decisions are empirically based and the rehabilitation programmes are adjusted to the time selected for returning to sports. In this article, some criteria that should be fulfilled in order to allow the patient to return to sports are presented. Surgery together with completed rehabilitation and sport-specific exercises should result in functional stability of the knee joint. In addition, adequate muscle strength and performance should be used as a critical criterion. Other factors, such as associated injuries and social and psychological hindrances may also influence the return to sports and must be taken into consideration, both during the rehabilitation and at the evaluation of the treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Athletic Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Humans
  • Sweden