As anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction has evolved to less invasive, more anatomical approaches, rehabilitation of the injured athlete has likewise become more progressive and innovative, with a sound understanding of graft and fixation strength and biologic healing-remodeling constraints. This review discusses these innovations including specific considerations before surgery, when planning rehabilitation timetables, and the importance of reestablishing nonimpaired active and passive knee range of motion and biarticular musculotendinous extensibility in positions of function. Concepts of self-efficacy or confidence and reestablishing the "athlete role" are also addressed. Since ACL injury and reinjury are largely related to the influence of structure-form-function on dynamic knee joint stability, the interrelationships between sensorimotor, neuromuscular, and conventional resistance training are also discussed. Although pivot shift "giving way" relates to function loss following ACL injury, anterior translational laxity often does not. Although there is growing evidence that progressive eccentric training may benefit the patient following ACL reconstruction, there is less evidence supporting the use of functional ACL knee braces. Of considerable importance is selecting and achieving a criteria-based progression to sports-specific training, reestablishing osseous homeostasis and improved bone density, blending open and closed kinetic chain exercises at the appropriate time period, and appreciating the influence of the trunk, upper extremities, and sports equipment use on knee loads. We believe that knee dysfunction and functional recovery should be considered from a local, regional, and global perspective. These concepts are consolidated into our approach to prepare patients for return to play including field testing and maintenance training.
Keywords: arthroscopy; knee; neuromuscular reeducation; sport-specific training.