Current concepts for injury prevention in athletes after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

Am J Sports Med. 2013 Jan;41(1):216-24. doi: 10.1177/0363546512459638. Epub 2012 Oct 5.


Ligament reconstruction is the current standard of care for active patients with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture. Although the majority of ACL reconstruction (ACLR) surgeries successfully restore the mechanical stability of the injured knee, postsurgical outcomes remain widely varied. Less than half of athletes who undergo ACLR return to sport within the first year after surgery, and it is estimated that approximately 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 young, active athletes who undergo ACLR will go on to a second knee injury. The outcomes after a second knee injury and surgery are significantly less favorable than outcomes after primary injuries. As advances in graft reconstruction and fixation techniques have improved to consistently restore passive joint stability to the preinjury level, successful return to sport after ACLR appears to be predicated on numerous postsurgical factors. Importantly, a secondary ACL injury is most strongly related to modifiable postsurgical risk factors. Biomechanical abnormalities and movement asymmetries, which are more prevalent in this cohort than previously hypothesized, can persist despite high levels of functional performance, and also represent biomechanical and neuromuscular control deficits and imbalances that are strongly associated with secondary injury incidence. Decreased neuromuscular control and high-risk movement biomechanics, which appear to be heavily influenced by abnormal trunk and lower extremity movement patterns, not only predict first knee injury risk but also reinjury risk. These seminal findings indicate that abnormal movement biomechanics and neuromuscular control profiles are likely both residual to, and exacerbated by, the initial injury. Evidence-based medicine (EBM) strategies should be used to develop effective, efficacious interventions targeted to these impairments to optimize the safe return to high-risk activity. In this Current Concepts article, the authors present the latest evidence related to risk factors associated with ligament failure or a secondary (contralateral) injury in athletes who return to sport after ACLR. From these data, they propose an EBM paradigm shift in postoperative rehabilitation and return-to-sport training after ACLR that is focused on the resolution of neuromuscular deficits that commonly persist after surgical reconstruction and standard rehabilitation of athletes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction / rehabilitation*
  • Athletic Injuries / prevention & control
  • Athletic Performance
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / physiopathology
  • Knee Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Physical Education and Training
  • Risk Factors