Stanish WD, Lai A. New concepts of rehabilitation following anterior cruciate reconstruction. Clin, SportsMed 1993; Jan; 12(1):25-58
Can a knee joint with a torn ACL of 2 years’ duration ever be able to return to high performance? Very unlikely indeed. Some realistic expectations follow: 1. The knee joint can never be normal after an ACL reconstruction. 2. Surgery must take place as early after the injury as possible, before secondary joint degeneration takes place. 3. The surgery must employ a tissue that best matches the normal ACL in strength and structure. 4. The surgery must involve as little trauma as possible while restoring knee joint mechanics. 5. Stress, although guarded, must be faced by the knee joint as soon as possible after surgery. 6. Progressive weight bearing starts immediately, combined with quadriceps isometrics. ROM of the knee joint, particularly full extension, is conserved and protected. 7. Progressive active ROM without formal resistance continues for 4 weeks. 8. Progressive formal resistance exercises continue for at least 1 year. 9. Sport-specific tasks commence at 16 weeks, depending on the requirement of the sport and the response of the individual athlete. 10. Recovery will plateau at several stages, with the final plateau at approximately 18 months. Knee instability is an exciting but perplexing problem. Although we have advanced profoundly from the era of Jones, Smiley, and others, we still face many of the same challenges as our predecessors. New technology should not fool us. We are still addressing a major structural failure within the knee joint. Our attempts have been non-surgical and surgical, with repair, reconstruction, and replacement. However, fundamental to all of these hopes has been the reconditioning of the extremity after ACL surgery. Can we do better than our forefathers like Licht and others? No one is certain. This article offers an approach, in some areas our approach, but should not be perceived as a cookbook. Individual responses by our patients, athletes, dictate whether any protocol is too hasty or tardy. It is fundamental that we listen to our patients objectively and analyze the knee as it returns from the surgical aggression. The ultimate success of the rehabilitation process will be based on the marriage of science and realistic expectations.