Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are becoming more prevalent in sports today. The ACL is one of the primary stabilizing ligaments in the knee preventing the tibia (shin) from translating forward (or moving away) from the femur (thigh). Both non contact and contact ACL injuries occur with non contact ACL injuries being the most prevalent. Female athletes are at a greater risk of non contact ACL injuries than their male counterparts. A variety of risk factors are present placing female athletes at greater risk including Q angle discrepancy, quad/hamstirng muscle imbalance, pronated feet and ligament laxity during menstrual cycle to name a few.
Once diagnosed with an ACL tear the athlete experiences a roller coaster of events and emotions. Depending on the surgeon and severity of the injury the athlete may have to complete physical therapy prior to surgery. Once the surgeon determines the athlete's joint is strong enough or ready for surgery the procedure is scheduled and completed. The first few days after surgery are the toughest. Depending on the situation the pain level can be minimal to excruciating. Every surgeon has their own post surgery exercise protocol. But generally the athlete returns to physical therapy within a week of surgery. Now it is time for the athlete to get focused and ready to work. Most athletes have the discipline to complete their exercises with the understanding that every second on their stretching and exercising counts and will help them in their quest to return to play. However, some athletes will struggle. These are the athletes that have never had to work before; everything came natural to them. Now all the sudden, s/he has to actually WORK to get their knee moving again. S/he has to put effort into every movement that came so natural to them before. Mentally the athlete starts to struggle and questions everything. There will also be athletes that question if s/he will ever be the athlete they were previous to injury. Other athletes will "baby" their reconstructed knee and develop bad movement patterns which would in turn set them up for injury in the future to the same joint and/or other joint(s). Apprehension, doubt, fear, etc. all occur and the athlete needs help addressing these emotions for a complete and healthy return to play to happen. Traditional physical therapy does not address the mental aspect of the healing process. This is where the athlete would begin to come to Innovative Training Solutions...to help with their physical and mental return to sports.
The post ACl rehab program at ITS is all encompassing. The athlete will be placed through an intense strength training program while addressing all the emotional and mental hurdles that may occur during their journey back to sport activity. On the first day the athlete will be placed through an orthopedic evaluation and a Functional Movement Screen (FMS). A thorough history will be taken as well requiring both athletes and parent input. Next goals will be set according to what the evaluation and FMS results present with. All programs are unique to each athlete with emphasis placed on strength training and neuromuscular training which help prepare athletes for the transition back to sport. All plyometrics, agilities and change of direction drills will be incorporated into the training program according to the surgeon's discretion and according to athlete's progress. During training sessions the mental and emotional aspect of their return is addressed and sometimes drills are incorporated forcing the athlete to face whatever adversity s/he may have to overcome.
When the athlete is ready, sport specific activities will be introduced. The athlete will be placed through a battery of drills that mimic the movements required for their sport. A coach is sometimes asked to be present to run the athlete through sport specific movements. They will be able to give feedback on how the athlete looks now compared to before the injury. Once the athlete achieves all their goals and is mentally ready their rehab process is over and return to sport is complete.