How do i find a good ACL physical therapist?

Important questions to ask when choosing a physical therapist.

A lot of people have no idea where to start when it comes to looking for the best physical therapist for an ACL recovery. Finding the right ACL physical therapist is pivotal for optimal recovery! 

How do i find a good ACL physical therapist?

Recovering from an ACL tear is complex and blindly following a protocol won’t cut it. We think not every physical therapist is qualified to treat ACLs from start to finish. It is important to realize this when choosing the right physical therapist for your ACL rehab.

We believe everyone recovering from ACL injury should find an ACL therapist that understands the entire proces. It can be hard to know and to find what you need for ACL recovery.

Here are some good questions for all ACL patients to ask when finding an ACL professional suitable for quality ACL rehab. 

ALL ACL PATIENT SHOULD ASK QUESTIONS SUCH AS:

ASK THE SURGEON WHAT PHYSICAL THERAPIST OR CLINIC DO YOU RECOMMEND?

Is there a physical therapist or clinic you recommend working with?
Are there any places i should avoid?

ASK PHYSICAL THERAPIST:

> WHAT IS THEIR EXPERIENCE WITH ACLs?

How many years of experience does the physical therapist have with ACL rehabilitation?

> HOW MANY ACL REHABS DO YOU TREAT A YEAR?

Experience matters. Numbers don’t always say everything, but is a good indication. Ask your therapist how many ACL patients he/she treats in a given year. You want someone with experience helping people along this path. Experience goes a long way in recognizing when things are going well or in the wrong direction.
PT’s who treat 5+ ACL’s a year is a good mark to aim for.

> WILL THERE BE GROUP OR INDIVIDUAL TRAINING?

ACL rehab is not something you do alone. In addition to individual training, group training is an important adjunct.

> ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH MY SURGEON’S POST OP PROTOCOL?

It’s good to know if the PT has a relationship with the surgeon or is willing to establish one.

10 how do i find

Big thanks to: theaclclub.com

> WHAT CRITERIA DO YOU USE FOR RETURN TO SPORT?

Return to running, sports activities, and full return to sport.

> WHAT KIND OF TESTING DO THEY DO?

Good rehabilitation is characterised by intermediate tests that assess the progress of your recovery. Do they use a test battery or hop-tests? Successful completion of standard 4 hop tests at 90% distance. A physical therapist who treats ACL surgery patients should know what tests and measures they want someone to pass and why. They should also be able to modify this list depending on the needs and expectations of the individual. Again, this goes back to the idea that experience matters.

> HOW LONG SHOULD IT TAKE TO GET BACK TO SPORT?

Any PT saying less than 9 months is not following current evidence. 9 months is the earliest someone should go back.

> HOW DO YOU MEASURE QUAD STRENGHT OR FORCE CAUGE?

Words to look for: Hand Held Dynamometer or an Isokinetic Dynamometer (Biodex). > 90% quad strength is key.

> WHAT ARE THEIR TREATMENT PHILOSOPHIES?

What are their goals early on in rehab?

> WHAT KIND OF RESEARCH HAVE THEY READ?

Up-to-date knowledge of the latest research is important. When did they take courses or attend a conference on the ACL?

> WHAT TOOLS DO YOU HAVE ACCESS TO FOR REHAB?

Are there sufficient and appropriate training materials? In addition to adequate space, the available training materials are essential to your rehabilitation. Some helpful items are blood flow restriction cuffs, electric stimulation, barbells, kettlebells and more.

> WILL SEE MORE THAN ONE PROVIDER?

Personal preference to see the same PT (or to work with a few different ones) within the practice you trust.

> IS THERE OUTDOOR OR FIELD TRAINING?

Outdoor and field training are an essential part of your rehabilitation should you eventually want to return to sports.

> WHAT ARE YOU KEYS FOR PATIENTS DURING THIS RECOVERY?

This will vary but it can give you good insight into recovery. Recommendations can include being around team, journaling, education, nutrition, sports psychologist, mental performance coach, athletic trainer.

> LOOK FOR CERTAIN INITIALS AFTER A THERAPIST’S NAME?

Look for certain initials after a therapist’s name (ie John Doe, PT, DPT, OCS, CSCS). These specific initials indicate an elevated level of education, dedication and interest in areas that will help you. There are a ton of other certifications out there but here is a list of the initials you should put the most stock in:
– OCS = Orthopedic Clinical Specialist (board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists)
– SCS = Sports Medicine Certified Specialist (board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialists)
– FAAOMPT = Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Therapists
– CSCS = Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (National Strength and Conditioning Association)

> DO THEY UNDERSTAND HOW TO PROPERLY CLEAR AN ATHLETE FOR SPORTS?

Look around the clinic. Does the clinic and the patients in it look like a place you belong? Do you see other people of your age and ability level? Is there equipment or access to equipment that will continue to challenge you?

Without looking at research, therapist are blindly guessing when you’re safe to return to sports. If a ACL  physical therapist doesn’t know these simple things maybe begin looking elsewhere.

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