The grand finale, the blog post everyone who has been following along has been waiting for: Part 3 of our Return to Run (RTR) after ACL Tear series! A quick summary of parts 1 and 2 for those of you who don’t remember (or who didn’t feel like reading them in the first place):
Returning to run after an ACL tear has to be done through a function based approach, rather than the conventional time-based approach.
PREPARING to return to running starts day 1 of rehab. This preparation is key to a successful return to running program.
✅ICYMI: Instagram post for Returning to Run after ACL Tear: Part 3
What does this “preparation” consist of? How do you know when you're TRULY ready to return to running after ACL surgery? Let’s see!
🔑 Preparation is key! The trick is to start preparing for running early in the rehab process. The famous saying: Start with the end (goal) in mind. Returning to run is a huge milestone in ACL rehab, so we start preparing our athletes way before we actually lace up our sneaks and hit the road or treadmill.
You wouldn’t throw a baby in the pool without first breaking down the components of what is required for proper swimming. Babies learn to float, move their arms, kick their legs, and THEN the instructor puts it all together in the form of swimming a small distance, say from the wall to a parent.
The same gradual progression applies when returning to running after an ACL tear. Athletes build up the strength, begin to incorporate force absorption and production, and progress towards jumping/bounding/acceleration/deceleration drills. Then we put this together for a small run or interval.
While our ACL athletes are a little (okay a lot) more advanced than a baby learning to swim, you get the gist. We wouldn’t just send you off on a run (just like we wouldn’t throw a baby in a pool) and say GOOD LUCK! Just like we wouldn’t expect a baby to swim 3 laps in the pool, we don’t expect you to go run 5 miles or sprint effortlessly after months of being off that knee.
At Made 2 Move, we are all about preparing our athletes for the demands of their sport. This means a recreational runner's RTR program may look different than a college linebacker’s, but the underlying rehab principles (see the 3 below) remain constant. Returning to run is a huge milestone in our ACL rehab program. And if you’ve learned anything from the series it is this: Preparing to run should start way before 12 weeks post-op.
The Big 3
We focus on 3 main criteria before we start jogging again, with overlap in these stages throughout 🏃♂️:
We make sure our athletes have full range of motion and a strong baseline. THEN…
We get our athletes comfortable accepting load and absorbing force.
Before we actually start jogging, we make sure the athlete is comfortable accepting load in their knee and absorbing force. We do this by slowly working our way up to controlled plyometrics - using bounding drills, med ball slams, band assisted hopping, etc - and progress these gradually.
We start introducing the building blocks of jumping, acceleration, deceleration, change of direction, and agility by incorporating basic movements such as reactive drills, and bounding.
Athletes will progress to controlled impact plyometrics, increasing difficulty, speed, and distance gradually. Once an athlete can tolerate these activities without an increase in swelling, we can start to program in jogging intervals.
💪🏼 Our goal throughout this whole process is to prevent setbacks and prepare our athletes to be able to handle the demands of their sports and activities.
Are you Ready to Return to Run?
At the end of the day, no one can guarantee that an athlete is 100% “ready” to return to sport. “Ready” will look different for every individual from a timeline, objective, and subjective view. Your ready is not my ready is not your neighbor’s ready.
There are obvious physical components of readiness, but there is also the mental component. Back to the baby learning to swim analogy: a baby may have all the skills to be able to swim, but fears the water. Mentally, they are not ready. In contrast, a baby may love the water but not yet have all the skills to be able to swim properly. Physically, they are not ready.
Same for our athletes after an ACL injury: Mentally you may be jazzed to get back on the field, but physically your knee may not be on the same page. The converse is also true: your knee may be strong, stable, and adequately prepared, but mentally there could still be some fear, anxiety, and uneasiness surrounding your return.
At Made 2 Move, we get to spend a solid hour (more if we need it) with every patient. This gives us time to assess all aspects of your readiness, coordinate with other health professionals when necessary, and make sure we are doing everything in our power to ensure your preparedness.
If you are going through ACL recovery, first off: you’re a rockstar! ACL injury and subsequent recovery is not for the faint of heart. But as cliche as it sounds, be patient and trust the process. It seems obvious, but serves as a solid reminder with any injury: adequate preparation will positively influence your overall readiness.
Interested in working with the Made 2 Move Team in your return to running after an ACL injury or surgery? Reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org today to set up an initial evaluation with one of our therapists.