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Quality and Variability of Online Available Physical Therapy Protocols From Academic Orthopaedic Surgery Programs for Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

      Purpose

      To assess the quality and variability found across anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rehabilitation protocols published online by academic orthopaedic programs.

      Methods

      Web-based ACL physical therapy protocols from United States academic orthopaedic programs available online were included for review. Main exclusion criteria included concomitant meniscus repair, protocols aimed at pediatric patients, and failure to provide time points for the commencement or recommended completion of any protocol components. A comprehensive, custom scoring rubric was created that was used to assess each protocol for the presence or absence of various rehabilitation components, as well as when those activities were allowed to be initiated in each protocol.

      Results

      Forty-two protocols were included for review from 155 U.S. academic orthopaedic programs. Only 13 protocols (31%) recommended a prehabilitation program. Five protocols (12%) recommended continuous passive motion postoperatively. Eleven protocols (26%) recommended routine partial or non–weight bearing immediately postoperatively. Ten protocols (24%) mentioned utilization of a secondary/functional brace. There was considerable variation in range of desired full-weight-bearing initiation (9 weeks), as well as in the types of strength and proprioception exercises specifically recommended. Only 8 different protocols (19%) recommended return to sport after achieving certain strength and activity criteria.

      Conclusions

      Many ACL rehabilitation protocols recommend treatment modalities not supported by current reports. Moreover, high variability in the composition and time ranges of rehabilitation components may lead to confusion among patients and therapists.

      Level of Evidence

      Level II.
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