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ACL Therapy Rehab

ACL Therapy Rehab

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a ligament in the knee that prevents excessive forward and rotational knee movements of the tibia (shin) toward the femur (thigh). It’s common for an ACL to tear when an athlete stops moving or changes direction too suddenly during sports activity.

Depending on the severity of an ACL injury, doctors may recommend surgery or rehabilitation exercises. Athletic trainers often use aquatic therapy to help their patients recover from an ACL injury or surgery. Water therapy can help speed up recovery and improve a patient’s performance on land.

How to Overcome an ACL Recovery Plateau

A recovery plateau refers to a dip in the recovery process where patients struggle to see drastic improvements. Patients often feel discouraged when this happens, believing they won’t see further progress. It’s common for people with ACL injuries to experience a plateau during their rehabilitation period.

Athletic trainers can recommend an aquatic ACL rehab protocol to help their patients overcome this recovery plateau if land exercises aren’t helping them progress. Individuals with an ACL injury can begin aquatic therapy once the swelling goes down on their knee.

Athletic trainers often encourage patients to use an underwater treadmill to focus on core stabilization and active motion without causing further injury. Water therapy can effectively improve weight distribution and restore balance. It’s crucial for patients to understand that ACL recovery takes time, especially if the tear is severe. Read the case study below to see how aquatic therapy helped a patient overcome a plateau in her ACL recovery.

Benefits of aquatic therapy for ACL recovery

Using Aquatic Therapy to Overcome Rehab Plateau: ACL, Mcl, Meniscus Tear Case Study

It was eight weeks post-op for the volleyball player who had endured an ACL, MCL and Meniscus Tear on her right knee during a volleyball tournament. While she had been receiving land physical therapy since the first day after surgery at Dr. Daniel C. Eby Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Center, she had hit a plateau in her rehab and was having problems with her ROM and her endurance. Despite their best efforts, Alyssa could not get past the hump. She had 0 degrees of extension and 95 degrees of flexion in her affected knee.

Her physical therapist, Rodney Crawford, PTA, ATC decided aquatic therapy could be the key to getting her past the frustrating point of her rehab so that they could see some renewed progress. In her first session in the pool, he took her through some simple exercises to improve her ROM. During this first session, she noted that it was much easier to move her knee in the water and her PT noted that although she wasn’t able to march on land, she was doing much better in the pool.

The first session included the following exercises:


  • Straight Leg Raise (20 reps)
  • Hip Adduction (20 reps)
  • Hip Extension (20 reps)
  • Knee Flexion (20 reps)
  • Heel/Toe Raises (20 reps)
  • Standing Marching (2:00 minutes)

Cool Down

  • Calf Stretch (30 second hold)
  • Hamstring Stretch (30 second hold)
  • Knee Flexion (30 second hold)

Using the pool, Rodney was able to get Alyssa back to land exercises in just 3 weeks of pool therapy.

Watch her first pool session and hear her full case history below:

Experience the Fast-Acting Benefits of ACL Aquatic Therapy

Here at HydroWorx, we offer athletic trainers and clinicians specialized pools to help their patients overcome sports injuries like a torn ACL. Contact us online for more information on our products and how they change lives.


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