Neuromuscular training techniques to target deficits before return to sport after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

J Strength Cond Res. 2008 May;22(3):987-1014. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31816a86cd.


Surgical intervention and early-phase rehabilitation after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction have undergone a relatively rapid and global evolution over the past 25 years. Despite the advances that have significantly improved outcomes, decreases in healthcare coverage (limited visits allowed for physical therapy) have increased the role of the strength and conditioning specialist in the rehabilitation of athletes returning to sport after ACL reconstruction. In addition, there is an absence of standardized, objective criteria to accurately assess an athlete's ability to progress through the end stages of rehabilitation and safely return to sport. The purpose of this Scientific Commentary is to present an example of a progressive, end-stage return to sport protocol that is targeted to measured deficits of neuromuscular control, strength, power, and functional symmetry that are rehabilitative landmarks after ACL reconstruction. The proposed return to sport training protocol incorporates quantitative measurement tools that will provide the athlete with objective feedback and targeted goal setting. Objective feedback and targeted goal setting may aid the strength and conditioning specialist with exercise selection and progression. In addition, a rationale for exercise selection is outlined to provide the strength and conditioning specialist with a flexible decision-making approach that will aid in the modification of return to sport training to meet the individual athlete's abilities and to target objectively measured deficits. This algorithmic approach may improve the potential for athletes to return to sport after ACL reconstruction at the optimal performance level and with minimized risk of reinjury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Athletic Injuries / diagnosis
  • Athletic Injuries / rehabilitation
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Joint Instability / prevention & control
  • Knee Injuries / diagnosis
  • Knee Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Male
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Physical Therapy Modalities*
  • Postoperative Care / methods
  • Range of Motion, Articular / physiology
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / methods
  • Reconstructive Surgical Procedures / rehabilitation*
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome