Let’s continue to stage three of ACL Rehab and discuss some of the general goals we set for the athlete through their rehab program. Stage three is typically when the patient starts feeling more like an athlete. They have progressed to jogging by now, they have regained a lot of their strength, and they have begun lateral work (shuffles, lateral lunges, etc.).

Here are the four key goals for Stage 3 of ACL rehab:

1. Sport-specific work

It is always important to know that, in most cases, the athlete’s goal is to get back to their sport. Incorporating sport-specific work can be done relatively early, and often helps keep the athlete engaged, giving them something to look forward to at the end of the process. Soccer players can begin juggling and passing, hockey players can begin skating, baseball/softball players can start hitting off a tee and playing catch, and the list goes on.

2. Agility and Speed

Similar to the above, understanding the demands that will be placed on the athlete is crucial to a successful rehab plan. Being able to quickly change direction, react to the game, and pivot on their knee are all things the athlete needs to be prepared for. We often use ladder drills and change of direction drills such as shuffling, jogging, and backpedaling, and figure eight sprints. Speed drills include short acceleration drills of 5-10 yards, deceleration drills where an athlete has to slow down and come to a complete stop, and top-end speed drills of a longer distance.

3. SL power

Just as single-leg strength is key, regaining single-leg power is important to help the athlete return successfully. Power is often the last thing the athlete gains back. We test this by measuring the height of their single-leg countermovement jump and compare from left to right. Ideally, we get them back within 10% of their uninvolved leg.

4. Strength in rotation/valgus position

The athlete is not always going to be able to maintain perfect form. Therefore, it is important to have them strengthen in those vulnerable positions. Rotation and pivoting motions put a lot of stress on the knee, so we need to incorporate those movements in rehab. Valgus (knee collapsing inward) positions will happen in sports, so we need to prepare them to control it. Exercises may include drills with the 3D strap, pivoting off each leg, medicine ball rotation drills, cutting drills, crossover box step-ups, and banded split squats. This list is not exhaustive, and it’s important to stay creative to keep the athlete engaged and safe.

If you missed our article on stage 1 ACL rehab goals, CLICK HERE.

If you missed our article on stage 2 of ACL rehab goals, CLICK HERE.