Rehabilitation and recovery after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: patients' experiences

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2008 Jun;18(3):325-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2007.00700.x. Epub 2007 Dec 7.


The aim was to explore patients' experiences of the rehabilitation process after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. Ten participants were enrolled in the study. Semi-structured interviews were performed, focusing on challenges during the post-operative rehabilitation to 1 year after ACL reconstruction. The participants perceived no real choice between operative and non-operative treatment. Only surgery symbolized a full return to the pre-injury level of sports, and surgery was understood as the only way to become a completely restored "functional human being." A major source of frustration was that the meaning of and progress during the rehabilitation did not match their expectations. Three different responses to the challenge of a prolonged rehabilitation were expressed: "going for it,""being ambivalent," and "giving in." Fear of re-injury was common; however, some participants decided not to return to their pre-injury level of sports due to reasons other than physical limitations or fear of re-injury. From a patient perspective, it seems important that the choice of operative or non-operative treatment should be discussed in terms of the meaning and extent of the post-operative rehabilitation and the expected outcomes. There also seems to be a need for more guidance in realistic goal setting and coaching throughout the rehabilitation process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
  • Athletic Injuries / psychology
  • Athletic Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Athletic Injuries / surgery
  • Female
  • Health Status Indicators
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Knee Injuries / surgery
  • Male
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Patient Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / psychology
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures / rehabilitation*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome