ACL Reconstruction


Please be aware that this timeline is a guide only. Everybody’s rate of healing differs and you may progress faster or slower than indicated.

Please feel free to call us at Body Logic Physiotherapy if you feel you are not progressing as well as you should be.

0-2 weeks:

Weight bearing as tolerated. Begin walking with use of the crutches, easing off them as your pain allows

Stationary bike riding as soon as able with no resistance. Begin doing only 10 minutes at a time, increasing time to 20 minutes. Ice your knee before and after.

If your surgeon has asked you to wear a splint do not bike

See your physiotherapist at 2 weeks after your knee reconstruction.

2-6 weeks:

Begin aquatic physiotherapy program designed for you by your physiotherapist.

Keep up with your rehab program as indicated by your physiotherapist.

Gently increase the resistance on the stationary bike as your pain allows.

6-12 weeks:

At 6 weeks begin swimming, use a pool buoy in between your legs and do not kick. This will begin to improve your cardiovascular fitness and upper body strength.

At 10 weeks commence swimming with a light kick.

Commence riding on the road at 8 weeks.

Only start jogging once you are cleared to do so by your surgeon. Normally this will be between 12 and 16 weeks after your surgery.

12 weeks to 5 months:

Strength and agility exercises will progress

Low impact step aerobics classes can be commenced as indicated by your physiotherapist.

Commence sport specific activities guided by your physiotherapist.

5-6 months:

Return to training and participating in skill exercises.

Follow your physiotherapist’s guidelines for return to sport modifications.

Train in PEP program for warm up to reduce further ACL injury.


(Exercises to be done 3 times per day)

Stage 1 (0-2 weeks):


  1. Control Swelling
    • REST
    • ICE – 15 to 20 minutes, 4 times per day
    • COMPRESSION – Wear tubigrip during the day
    • ELEVATE – rest as frequently as you can with your leg up on a bed/couch
  2. Mobility
    • Achieve correct gait, FWB. If pain allows without crutches
  3. Exercises
    • Achieve full passive extension (straighten out flat)
    • Achieve full flexion (bending of the knee) – may be limited by swelling
    • Active strengthening begins with static weight bearing co-contractions of quadriceps and hamstrings (emphasising VMO) and progresses to active free hamstring contractions by day 14.

Ankle Exercises

Move foot up and down and around in circles. Repeat 10 times in Each direction every hour, for the first few days.

Calf Stretch

Use towel or belt around foot to pull toes towards face. Hold for 20 seconds, relax, repeat 3 times.

Hamstring Stretch

Keeping knee and back straight, lean forward until you feel a gentle Stretch behind the knee. Hold for 20 seconds, relax, repeat 3 times.

Quad Sets/Extension

  1. Sit or lie on your back with your leg straight.
  2. Press the back of your knee downwards by tightening the muscle on the front of your thigh.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds.
  4. Repeat 3 x 10 times.

Isometric Quadriceps/Hamstring Co-Contraction (long sitting position)

  1. Sit with a rolled up towel under your knee and the thigh rolled outwards.
  2. Dig heel into bed and tighten whole thigh.
  3. Place fingers on inner thigh just above kneecap to feel quadriceps/Vastis medialis muscle contracting.
  4. Hold contraction for 5 secs, rest for a few seconds.
  5. Repeat 3 x 10 times.
  6. You can also do this sitting

Bent Leg Raise

  1. With knee bent to about 30 degrees, lift leg off bed.
  2. Keep your knee flexed at 30° throughout the exercise.
  3. Hold for 5 seconds, then relax.
  4. Repeat 3 x 10 times.


Passive Flexion in Sitting

Commence now.

  1. Wrap a towel around the ball of your foot of your operated leg.
  2. Holding the ends of the towel in your hands, gently pull the ends of the towel so that your knee bends with it.
  3. Hold at the comfortable limit of flexion for 5 seconds.
  4. Continue slowly 10 times. Gradually increase to 30 times.

Passive Flexion in Prone

Commence in 1-2 days.

  1. Lie on stomach.
  2. Place foot of unoperated leg underneath shin of operated leg.
  3. Gently assist the injured leg to bend as far as comfortable by pushing up with the unoperated leg.
  4. Hold at the limit of flexion for 5 seconds.
  5. Continue slowly for 10 – 30 times.
  6. Continue to do Passive Flexion in Sitting exercise before this one.


Supine Hangs
Commence now.

  1. Sit or lie with foot up on a ball/bolster/rolled towel.
  2. Relax knee in straight position for 30 seconds.
  3. Continue for a total of 5 minutes.

Prone Hangs

Commence in 1-2 days. ** Only do this extension exercise. Stop doing the Supine Hangs**

  1. Lie on stomach with knee-caps over the edge of a firm bench or bed.
  2. Let operated knee gently hang over the end of bench/bed.
  3. Hang for 1 minute, lift slightly up with good leg to rest for 30 seconds.
  4. Continue for a total of 5 minutes.

Advanced Prone Hangs

Commence in 5-7 days. ** Only do this extension exercise. Stop doing the Prone Hangs**

  1. Lie on stomach with knee-caps over the edge of bench or bed.
  2. Let operated knee gently hang over the end of bench/bed.
  3. Rest the foot of your good leg over the ankle of your operated leg, to gain a greater stretch.
  4. Hold position for 1 minute, then ease pressure off by lifting good leg off for 30 seconds.
  5. Continue for a total of 5 minutes.

Patella Mobilisation

With knee straight and relaxed, gently move kneecap from side to side (A) and up and down (B).