Return to Sport: Decreasing your risk of re-injury

Feb 14, 2020

Editor’s note: This blog will focus primarily on research as it applies to return to sport following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, but these concepts may be applied across the board at varying degrees for returning to sport following many injuries.

Imagine this: You (or your child) are playing a game when an injury occurs. From this moment on, there are several decisions that have to be made, including:

  • what the injury is
  • how severe the injury is
  • and what treatment options are available.

These decisions should be part of a shared decision making model, which include many players including the athlete, family, coach, physician, physical therapist, psychologist and nutritionist. Regardless of what route for treatment is chosen, one thing is usually for certain: everyone’s goal is to get the athlete to return to sport.

Research shows that risk of re-injury is high—both on the same leg or the contralateral leg—but this risk decreases at nine months following a surgical anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. It has been shown that time is one of the major factors in reducing risk of re-injury once the athlete returns to their sport, although this can be variable depending on the type of surgery you have.

Following surgery, your physical therapist will design a program specific to your injury and your goals in order to help get you back to playing your sport. Early in your program you will be working on goals such as returning your range of motion and gaining strength, which can often be done with blood flow reconstruction.

As your physical therapy program progresses, your physical therapist will follow recommendations as made by your physician regarding the timeline for beginning training of more intensity, which will include agility exercises such as jogging, running, jumping and sport specific drills. As you approach the time to return to sport, your physical therapist will run a battery of tests in order to assess your range of motion, strength, balance and function in order to ensure you are safe to return to sport. All along, your physical therapist will be communicating this data with your orthopedic surgeon, who will make the final decision for release to return to sport.

It is likely that you will phase into return to sport by first returning to participation—this may be with your team in practice or may be in a program such as the Step Up Strength and Conditioning Program, if you are in an off season.

Following return to participation, you will transition into return to sport with your team.

Often, returning to a sport starts before you return to full performance. Research shows that only 55% of athletes return to sport at the performance level as prior to the injury. Hard work, dedication and continued participation as guided by your coach will continue to improve your level of performance.

If you are interested in seeing how physical therapy can help you return to your favorite sport after an injury, contact Campbell County Health Rehabilitation Services in Gillette, Wyoming. Our compassionate and experienced staff helps each patient, in a team-oriented atmosphere, reach their goals. Call 307.688.8000 to make an appointment, or visit to learn more.