Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 1065–1073 | Cite as

No evidence for the most appropriate postoperative rehabilitation protocol following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction with concomitant articular cartilage lesions: a systematic review

  • Ciaran Thrush
  • Tabitha J. Porter
  • Brian M. Devitt



Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture commonly occurs in conjunction with articular cartilage injury. However, there is no consensus on the most appropriate rehabilitation which should be carried out for ACL reconstruction (ACLR) and the surgical management of articular cartilage lesions of the knee. The purpose of this study was to systematically review the literature to investigate the recommended rehabilitation protocol for patients undergoing ACLR with concomitant articular cartilage injury with a view to develop guidelines on the most appropriate treatment.


Two reviewers independently searched five database for randomised controlled trials (RCTs), non-randomised comparative and retrospective cohort studies (CS) describing the management of concomitant ACL rupture and articular cartilage injury and the postoperative rehabilitation regimen. Risk of bias was performed using a modified Downs & Black’s checklist. The primary outcome was specific rehabilitation protocols including weight-bearing status, immobilisation, continuous passive motion (CPM), and return to play criteria. Secondary outcomes included patient-reported outcomes. A best evidence synthesis was performed.


The review yielded six studies which reported on rehabilitation techniques. All studies were of low methodological quality. There was considerable variability in not only the chondral lesion reported but also the treatment techniques utilised and especially the rehabilitation regimes. No consensus was found on weight-bearing status, postoperative immobilisation, the use of CPM, or return to play criteria. Given the quality of the papers, there was no evidence to recommend any specific rehabilitation regime in the postoperative management of concomitant ACLR and articular cartilage lesions.


This systematic review revealed that despite how common concomitant ACL rupture and articular cartilage injury is, there is no evidence to support one, most appropriate rehabilitation protocol. From a clinical perspective, decisions on postoperative rehabilitation for patients undergoing ACLR and treatment of articular cartilage lesions should be made on a case-by-case basis with criteria-based progression until more robust evidence becomes available. A list of specific rehabilitation protocols based on the cartilage restoration technique is provided.

Level of evidence



Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction Articular cartilage lesions Rehabilitation 



No funding was required for this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors declare that they have any conflict of interest related to this work.

Ethical approval

This manuscript is a systematic review and does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

For this type of study formal consent is not required.

Supplementary material

167_2018_4882_MOESM1_ESM.docx (13 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 13 KB)


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Copyright information

© European Society of Sports Traumatology, Knee Surgery, Arthroscopy (ESSKA) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ciaran Thrush
    • 1
  • Tabitha J. Porter
    • 1
  • Brian M. Devitt
    • 1
  1. 1.OrthoSport Victoria Research UnitEpworth HealthcareMelbourneAustralia

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