POSTOPERATIVE REHABILITATION PROTOCOL
FOR ANTERIOR CRUCIATE LIGAMENT RECONSTRUCTION
(PATELLAR TENDON GRAFT) (PTG)
DOCTOR: Robert F. LaPrade, M.D., Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota
Sports Medicine Institute, University of Minnesota
1. Laxity testing (KT-1000)
2. Range of motion measurements
3. Thigh girth measurements
4. All limits-of-motion clinical testing
1. Compression dressing, ice to knee
2. Immobilizer with knee in straight (0 degrees) extension (the struts for the
immobilizer should be bent out into a position of relative knee recurvation
which generally keeps a knee with a postop dressing in full extension).
3. Proper knee elevation
4. Immediate quad sets; ankle pumps encouraged
***Treat combined extraarticular and/or meniscal repair ACL/PTG as
(if in doubt contact surgeon)***
Postoperative Day One:
1. No pillow under knee at any time for first six weeks. Pillows should
always support foot/ankle while in bed.
2. Out of bed
3. Quad sets - 30 reps, 3-5 times daily. Five quads hard for 6 seconds.
Relax for 3 seconds. Repeat.
4. Ankle pumps every hour.
5. Protected weight bearing with crutches to tolerance
6. Dressing changes prior to hospital discharge
7. Obtain full passive extension (0 degrees) out of immobilizer (essential)
8. Achieve 90 degrees of flexion
9. Protected weight bearing as tolerated (WBAT) with crutches
10. Exercises (out of immobilizer):
a. Quad sets
b. Active assisted knee flexion (sitting)
c. Hamstring stretches
d. Passive extension to 0 degrees
e. Standing hamstring curls
1. Gait-weight bear as tolerated with crutches
2. Exercises (out-of-brace):
Flexion Exercises (4 times daily):
- Active assisted knee flexion (sitting) to > 90 degrees (as tolerated)
- Sitting/standing hip flexion
- Standing hamstring curls
- Quadriceps stretch to achieve full passive extension (frequently)
- Quad sets (10 sets of 30 daily)
- Straight leg raises (obtain full extension)
(10 sets of 30 daily). No sag of the knee should be present.
- Hamstring stretches (hourly)
Crutch Ambulation Protocol (verify with surgeon for each case):
1. Weight bear as tolerated (protected) with crutches for 2 weeks.
2. After two weeks, may progress to one crutch (on opposite side) once
quadriceps function and gait mechanics are normal.
3. Discontinue one crutch once gait mechanics are normal (no limping).
Postoperative Two to Six Weeks:
1. Top priority - obtain full (0 degrees) knee extension.
2. Increase knee range of motion.
3. Increase quadriceps strength in preparation for progression to
ambulation without use of crutches.
1. Continue knee immobilizer at full extension. Decrease use as
comfortable (important - verify with surgeon). May ambulate without knee
brace (with crutches) once quadriceps able to fire well to support
2. Flexion Exercises:
- Active assisted knee flexion (with overpressure - goal is 130 degrees).
- Biking as tolerated to 30 minutes (low resistance).
- First two weeks of exercise bike backwards (no resistance).
3. Progressive Resistance Exercises: (30-50 repetitions, 0-5 pounds, 3
- Straight leg raises (maintain full extension)
- Hamstring curls
- Hip flexion, extension, abduction
* If any of these exercises seem to aggravate the knee (swelling, pain, or
tenderness), then that specific exercise which causes the difficulty should be
postponed until you have discussed the effects of the exercise with us
Postoperative Seven to Twelve Weeks:
1. Achieve full extension to near full flexion.
2. Improve quadriceps tone (return of VMO definition)
1. Quadriceps - straight leg raises (10 sets of 30 repetitions each), and
quads setting (10 sets of 30 repetitions each)
2. Hip muscle groups. May progress by adding weights above the knee.
Hip abductors, flexors, abductors, extensors (10 repetitions, 4 sets daily).
An isometric variation can be performed by pushing down on the hip being
worked on and sustaining a contraction for 10 seconds.
3. Hamstrings curls - may add weights around the ankle (10 repetitions, 4
4. Calf raises. 3 sets, 10 repetitions - fast and slow sets (each).
5. Swimming. Flutter kick only - gentle. No whip kick.
6. May begin outdoor biking program - avoid hills. A good rule of thumb
for those interested in returning to athletics is that you need three minutes of
biking to substitute for one minute of running.
7. Accelerated program - start with sand bags on tibial tubercle. Perform
straight leg raises (10 sets, 10 repetitions each) and progress fulcrum
distally one inch per week).
8. Walking (level ground). Build up pace gradually. Feel big toe of affected
foot push off as you walk to ensure normal gait pattern. Start off at one
mile at brisk pace, increase to three miles. No limping allowed.
9. Sissy squats. Stand facing the edge of a door and place hands on the
door knobs on each side of the door. Feet should be shoulder width apart.
Perform a half-squat (never past 90 degrees) and slowly raise to a starting
position. Build up to 100 repetitions per day.
Postoperative 12-16 Weeks:
1. Full knee range of motion. Refer back to surgeon for extension
restriction of 5 degrees or if less than 110 degrees flexion.
2. Normal gait pattern.
3. Progressively increasing functional strengthening program.
1. Continue with exercise program from week 7-12.
2. Weight room activities:
- Leg press - press body weight as many times as possible on nonsurgical
side (to fatigue). Follow same sequence on surgical side.
- Squat rack - half squats (not past 70 degrees) at one-half body weight,
10 repetitions; progress to full body weight as tolerated.
3. Continue biking and/or swimming on a daily basis. No whip kicks.
4. Agility workouts:
- Balancing on a teeter-totter board or disc on a half-croquet ball
- Figure of 8ís (20 to 30 yard diameter circles)
- Backward jog
- Half speed jog (level surfaces only). Initially alternate 100 yards
walking/jogging over one mile. Build up to one mile by 16 weeks
Postoperative Four Months - Six Months:
1. Improve quadriceps strength/function
2. Improve endurance
3. Improve coordination/proprioception
1. Jogging - (level surfaces) - 15 minutes at 8-10 minutes/mile pace. Add 5
minutes per week.. Perform daily.
2. Biking - by now the amount of set resistance should be increasing.
Perform daily at 20 minutes/day. Legs should feel drained once off the
3. Step-ups - face the step. Put foot of operative knee on step and step up
on the step. Repeat with gradual build up in repetitions until doing 100
step-ups/day. Try to lower from the step twice as long as it takes to raise
up on the step.
4. Agility Drills:
- Figure 8ís - daily - 5 minutes half-speed - tighten circle size down
- Shuttle runs daily - 5 minutes - half-speed - repeat 10-12 repetitions
- Zig-zag running - angle across a distance of 10-15 yards, then angle
back across field to another boundary 10-15 yards apart. Continue for
100 yards. Tighten up as strength/endurance permits.
5. Sports on Own:
- Basketball - shooting baskets only
- Rollerblades - level surfaces - no hills- no quick stops, cutting, or
operative leg cross-overs (parking lots)
- Recreational tennis (no sharp pivoting)
- Golf (9-holes, avoid fatigue)
Postoperative Full Rehabilitation:
1. No competitive or pivot sports until cleared by surgeon.
2. Quadriceps/thigh circumference should be within 1 cm of nonoperative
(if normal) side.
3. Weekly strengthening program - independently (2-3 times/week):
- Full speed jog/run - 20-30 minutes - 6-7 minutes/mile or best pace.
- Exercise stationary bike - increasing resistance, set bike so low leg is
flexed no more than 10-15 degrees, 20 minutes.
- Agility drills (figure 8ís, shuttle runs, turns), teeter-totter balancing
- Continue quad sets, SLRís (300 repetitions/day)
- Hills/stairs - running up hills and up stairs can be utilized to help build
muscle mass and strength. Care should be taken running downhill and
down steps. This can irritate the knee and should be one of the last
exercises added to the workout program.