3 Factors That Determine If You Are Ready to Play Again after ACL Surgery

Jul 31, 2016

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the four ligaments in the knee that provides stabilisation for the knee joint. It runs diagonally from the back of your thigh bone upwards and forwards to the front of your shin bone. This is also the ligament that prevents your shin bone from moving excessively forward.


There are some activities that can cause tear to ACLs. ACL injuries are common. It can be due to trauma, overextending the knee joint, or sudden stop from moving or abrupt change of direction while running, landing from a jump or turning.


In ACL injuries, surgery with rehabilitation is the most commonly suggested treatment. This means there is a long period of downtime involved and you won’t be doing sports in a while.


Months after surgery, you may feel that you are back in your healthy pre-injury state. But the question is, is it the right time to play again?


There are 3 factors that indicate whether or not you are ready to return to your sport. These include ACL healing, functional performance and mental preparedness.

1. ACL Healing

The length of time for healing process may vary depending on age, graft choice and overall health. Full healing may take up to 12-18 months.


About 6 months or so, you may think your injury is healed enough for you to return to your sport. However, this isn’t enough time for full recovery and there are higher chances for re-injury when returning to sport early.

2. Functional Performance

Restoring functional ability of your knee and neuromuscular control of your lower extremity is important. Optimal physical attributes are required for high-level activities including strength, power, endurance, flexibility, balance, proprioception, speed, agility and functional movement patterns. If you are injured, these components become less than optimal. It requires nearly complete return of these attributes to safely return to sport.


A period of training for coordinated movement such as single and double leg hops, landing on an uneven surface on the injured leg, balance and coordination work and plyometric exercises are crucial.

3. Mental Preparedness

You need both physical strength and mental confidence before starting to play and compete again.

A lot of athletes are ready to return to full practice and competition as soon as they are medically cleared. Most of them have no problem re-entering the sports arena. But for some athletes, they may be ready physically, but not mentally prepared.


Confidence is huge in terms of return to play. It only shows that you are prepared to resume high-level activities.


You may be allowed to start practising your sport with your team. However, you cannot progress to play until you are fully confident.


Lack of mental preparation could result in a decline in performance, re-injury or further injury, and feelings of stress and anxiety.


Rehabilitation programs should be well-supervised by a physiotherapist to ensure that exercises are appropriate and you are progressing the right way.


If you have ACL injury, physiotherapy can help you get back to your sport. Get in touch with us on 9272 7359!