ACL rehabilitation – Get it straight
The key to success after an ACL reconstruction is rehab – and the goal should be full extension range of motion. Josh Vaughan, PT, explained what might be holding some athletes back from this goal and what they can do about it.
“Research is clear that symmetrical knee range of motion is one of the largest predictors of a successful rehab, but the importance of this is often lost on athletes,” said Vaughan. There are several reasons for this:
- It’s uncomfortable. There’s no way around it. Whether you are stretching, hanging or pushing, getting full knee extension is often uncomfortable. Because of this, athletes often opt out of doing these exercises consistently at home.
- It’s boring. Spending 15–30 minutes a day working on getting your knee straight gets old fast.
- Athletes are always ready for something new. It comes with the territory. Athletes want to get back to the field as fast as possible. They see advancement in exercises as a way to get there faster. This often causes them to lose sight of the basics too early in the rehab process and miss getting full extension.
As an athlete, why should I care about getting full extension?
Vaughan said there are many reasons why you should work toward getting full extension, including:
- Decreased risk of reinjury
- Prevention of faulty movement mechanics/compensations
- Decreased risk of patella tendon irritation during the strengthening phase
“As an athlete, the main thing you care about is performance. If your knee can’t get straight, then your quadriceps (the muscle on the front of your leg) can’t produce force at its max potential. Decreased force production equals decreased power. And decreased power equals decreased speed during running/sprinting, decreased height during jumping, or decreased velocity on your throws. Just remember limited extension equals limited performance,” said Vaughan.
If you need help getting back to full extension after an ACL reconstruction, reach out to a sports rehab professional.
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