Return to Sport after ACL Surgery – a simple explanation

Jul 13, 2021 | Blogs & News

Returning to sport following ACL surgery is not for the faint-hearted, requires respect for the healing process and dedication to rehabilitation. If everything goes perfectly then returning to the sport should take around 9 months. This considers healing time and time to build up strength and fitness.

For the average person that receives an ACL reconstruction, the time frame to return to sport can be unpredictable. This is because the average person does not get paid to do their rehab and life can throw many hurdles in the way of a structured rehabilitation programme.

At Physio Action, we break up the pathways to returning to sport into 5 categories:

  1. Recovery from surgery
  2. Regain strength and balance
  3. Regain agility, speed and landing skills
  4. Return to sport
  5. Prevention of re-injury

1) The first step takes 1 – 2 weeks depending on how your body responds to surgery.

Completing a pre-habilitation programme improves this step as taking time to understand the surgery and preparing your body for surgery can improve your comfort post-surgery.

2) The time frame to regain strength and balance is 12 – 24 weeks after the operation.

Benchmarks are set to help progression to the next phase. It is important to have equal leg strength prior to progressing to the next step.

3) Regaining Agility, Speed and Landing can take from 6 months to 2 years.

This part of rehabilitation can vary significantly if any other pathology or damage has occurred at the time of injury, as these also need to be taken into consideration when devising your programme.

A series researched based tests determine whether it is safe / acceptable to return to sport. This may vary depending upon the type of sport you play.

Subjective questionnaires are also useful and are often used to determine readiness to return to sport.

4) Return to sport is the 4th phase.

Physio Action physiotherapists are used to working in a variety of sports to initiate a sports specific rehabilitation programme which will culminate in a return to a gradual return of sporting activities and eventually a return to the pitch / court / sporting environment.

5) Ensure prevention of re-injury with an injury prevention programme in the warm-up such as FIFA11+ or PEP or NETBALL (Australia). 

Where to go for your ACL rehabilitation

This blog is for general advice.

If you have experienced an injury to your knee and would like one of our Physiotherapists to assess you, please come and see us at Physio Action or speak with your GP for further advice.

We have a great team here at our physiotherapy clinics in Leeds, Guiseley, Harrogate and Ilkley, if you would like some help, please call 0113 268 7578 or email us on