Pacific trainer talks ACL rehab

posted in: Sports, Winter | 0
After an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, immediate surgery is a necessity, followed by a long rehab process that usually lasts six to nine months. Head Athletic Trainer at Pacific University Eric Pitkanen is no stranger to the rehab process for an ACL injury.  “The first thing that has to be done is getting full range of motion (ROM) back,” Pitkanen said. “The sooner you get full ROM back, the faster your recovery is. We work on ROM the most 
for the first few weeks post-injury, as well as quad strengthening.”
Pitkanen explains that post-surgical rehab is based on timing milestones. The first 7-10 days is nothing but ice and rest. Then once the stitches come out they start actual rehab. The rehab process is an average of four months to start jogging, six months until they return to sport activity and full clearance between six to nine months depending on the person and the rehab. “During the rehab process, it is crutches as needed for about two weeks,” Pitkanen said. “Then full weight bearing as tolerated.
Rehab is focused mostly on quad strengthening after ROM is attained and then adding in a focus on hamstring work and a late stage emphasis on core and hip strength to reduce the risk of reinjury.” This is the standard procedure for most athletic trainers when rehabbing an ACL injury. However, Pitkanen and the Pacific training staff take a slightly different approach to this rehab process. “I treat my protocol a bit different in the way I emphasize my stages,” Pitkanen said. “I personally focus the first six to eight weeks just on quad strength and ROM. My aim is to have full ROM and 85 percent quad tone by the six week post-op appointment. From there I will integrate hamstring and core exercises for the next six week phase. At the 12 week mark they should have full ROM, full quad tone and have no swelling.
The next four to six weeks, before running, is aimed mainly at increasing core, hip strength and stability. After 18 weeks, it is mostly focused on whatever areas of deficit there are and integrating the athlete back into weight lifting and sport activity, with check-ups every six weeks. Most athletes are cleared around six and a half to seven and a half months.” Pitkanen and the rest of the Pacific training staff take ACL injuries very seriously and stick to a strict rehab regimen. As a result, athletes are able to get back into the swing of things before the average athlete who experiences an ACL injury.

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