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How long after ACL tear can you run?

  • 2 min read

Torn ACL

You’ve just had surgery on your ACL. Amongst the frustration of a long recovery ahead, many people want to know two things. When can I run again and when can I return to sport?

Rambaud et al. reviewed 201 studies that discussed inclusion criteria for when an individual can run following ACL surgery. Across the board the most common outcome for returning to run post-surgery was time. The majority of studies concluded the average was 12 weeks, 8-16 across all studies.

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Maybe the more shocking finding in this review is only 20% of the studies used performance-based criteria for return to run. Furthermore, there was large variability amongst the criteria used.

As a result of this study, the authors concluded that commonly used outcomes that should be considered non-negotiable when evaluating a return to run criteria include: knee pain less than 2/10, 95% of full knee flexion range of motion, full knee extension range of motion, and no knee swelling.

The most commonly used strength tests across all studies were isometric strength symmetry of the quadriceps and hamstring muscles measuring 70% of the uninjured leg or greater. Other less commonly used return-to-run tests included hop test, single leg squat, and step-up tests.

In conclusion, the answer is as always it depends. It appears that in the majority of cases running can begin between 12-16 weeks, but is patient-specific and varies according to progress and adherence to your rehabilitation plan.

Keep in mind that the more outcomes used, the more confidence you will have in your decision to return to running. Lastly, remember if you have to wait a couple of more weeks it is not a big deal. ACL rehab is a marathon, not a sprint. The last thing you want to do is tear it again.

When did you start running following your ACL repair? If you’ve just had surgery, how are you progressing?

Read more on taping for different running injuries from the Tape Geeks blog! 

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Rambaud et al. (2018) Criteria for return to running after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: a scoping review. Br J Sports Med, 52, 22, 1437-44. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098602