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ACL Rehabilitation

Whether choosing a surgical or nonsurgical approach to treatment, physical therapy is a vital part of healing from an ACL tear or injury. When it comes to ACL rehabilitation, there are three main treatment goals your physical therapist and orthopaedic surgeon will work towards for you to be cleared to return to normal activity.

The three main treatment goals include:

  • Stabilizing the knee if it is unsteady, to help you return to your daily activities.
  • Strengthening the muscles that support your knee, to help you return to the same level of activity as prior to your ACL injury.
  • Reducing the risk that your knee will be reinjured when returning to daily activity, including sports.

Your doctor and physical therapist will design a comprehensive physical rehabilitation (rehab) program that takes into consideration the following:

  • Desired level of activity
  • Physical fitness
  • Extent of the ACL injury
  • Treatment method
  • Athletic background

Throughout the next several months, you will work with your physical therapist on incorporating strength and flexibility exercises, including sport-specific exercises. UPMC Sports Medicine’s science-based approach to rehabilitation from ACL injury typically involves five phases. The duration of each phase will depend on your approach to treatment.

ACL Rehab Exercises

When rehabbing from ACL surgery, your physical therapist will include drills at each phase of recovery that will help:

  • Strengthen your injured leg.
  • Achieve full range of motion in your knee.
  • Increase flexibility, coordination, and agility.

During rehab from ACL reconstruction, you'll learn:

  • Quad sets
  • Straight-leg raises
  • Heel slides
  • Squats and lunges
  • Deadlifts and bridges
  • Planks and side-planks
  • Ladder drills
  • Box jumps
  • Agility grids

Exercise tips after ACL surgery

  • Start slow. Gradually increase intensity and duration.
  • Do not push yourself to the point that you feel pain.
  • Talk to your knee surgeon and physical therapist on how to best progress through each phase of ACL rehab.

Learn More About ACL Injuries and Rehab

Contact the UPMC Sports Medicine ACL Program today to learn more or make an appointment.