Neuroplasticity following anterior cruciate ligament injury: a framework for visual-motor training approaches in rehabilitation

J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2015 May;45(5):381-93. doi: 10.2519/jospt.2015.5549. Epub 2015 Jan 10.


Synopsis: The neuroplastic effects of anterior cruciate ligament injury have recently become more evident, demonstrating underlying nervous system changes in addition to the expected mechanical alterations associated with injury. Interventions to mitigate these detrimental neuroplastic effects, along with the established biomechanical changes, need to be considered in the rehabilitation process and return-to-play progressions. This commentary establishes a link between dynamic movement mechanics, neurocognition, and visual processing regarding anterior cruciate ligament injury adaptations and injury risk. The proposed framework incorporates evidence from the disciplines of neuroscience, biomechanics, motor control, and psychology to support integrating neurocognitive and visual-motor approaches with traditional neuromuscular interventions during anterior cruciate ligament injury rehabilitation. Physical therapists, athletic trainers, strength coaches, and other health care and performance professionals can capitalize on this integration of sciences to utilize visual-training technologies and techniques to improve on already-established neuromuscular training methods.

Level of evidence: Therapy, level 5.

Keywords: ACL; motor control; neuroscience; return to sports.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / innervation
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Feedback, Sensory
  • Humans
  • Knee Injuries / physiopathology*
  • Knee Injuries / prevention & control
  • Knee Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Neuronal Plasticity*
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*
  • Rupture