MOON group began enrolling ACL reconstruction patients we decided to develop a standardized physical therapy protocol to use for our patients and to have consistency for our patients’ recovery. I was tasked with developing an evidence based review of ACL reconstruction rehabilitation and then using it in conjunction with our physical therapists to develop a practical protocol. Ultimately, we developed what has been a very popular protocol that is more milestone based than time based and has been easy to implement across our several sites. We have subsequently published the protocol in the AOSSM journal Sports Health so that others can utilize it also. You can read the description and find the protocol HERE.
We published the systematic review evidence we based the protocol on in 3 separate studies. in Part 1 I reviewed the findings in our first publication. The second publication can be found HERE. Findings in this study included a review of open (isokinetic) vs. closed chain exercises. Closed chain exercises occur when the foot is planted on the floor or on a firm surface such as a leg press machine. These type of exercises may be more protective for the healing ACL graft, but it appears open chain exercises are safe 6 weeks after ACL reconstruction.
Neuromuscular stimulation has been extensively studied utilizing a variety of parameters and has not been shown to be critically important. It is safe and can be utilized at the therapist's discretion most commonly when the patient is struggling to recruit the quadriceps muscle for strengthening.
Accelerated rehabilitation has gained much attention, but there remains little evidence that it can be truly lowered below the 4 month time frame safely. One randomized study looked at 8 vs. 5 months and found no problems with this length of rehabilitation, but to many of us this doesn't represent significant acceleration. Future research will be necessary to address this further.
Water exercise may decrease swelling and appears to be safe. Slide board exercises can be incorporated at 6 weeks without harm. Stair climber is as safe as stationary cycling at 4 weeks.
Additional principles will be reviewed in Part 3 reviewing our 3rd study evaluating ACL rehab PT