Rehabilitation following anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction has undergone a relatively rapid and global evolution over the past 25 years. However, there is an absence of standardized, objective criteria to accurately assess an athlete’s ability to progress through the end stages of rehabilitation and safe return to sport. Return-to-sport rehabilitation, progressed by quantitatively measured functional goals, may improve the athlete’s integration back into sport participation. The purpose of this clinical commentary is to introduce an example of a criteria-driven algorithm for progression through return-to-sport rehabilitation following ACL reconstruction. Our criteria-based protocol incorporates a dynamic assessment of baseline limb strength, patient-reported outcomes, functional knee stability, bilateral limb symmetry with functional tasks, postural control, power, endurance, agility, and technique with sport-specific tasks. Although this algorithm has limitations, it serves as a foundation to expand future evidence-based evaluation and to foster critical investigation into the development of objective measures to accurately determine readiness to safely return to sport following injury.
J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2006; 36(6):385-402. doi:10.2519/jospt.2006.2222
Key Words: anterior cruciate ligament, knee rehabilitation, lower extremity, sport injury