RESEARCH SUMMARY: Return to performance of an elite female footballer following ACL reconstruction

Research SummaryLast Updated:

Original research title: ‘Physical preparation and return to performance of an elite female football player following ACL reconstruction: a journey to the FIFA Women’s World Cup’ (Taberner et al., 2020)

Authors: Taberner, M., van Dyk, N., Allen, T., Jain, N., Richter, C., Drust, B., Betancur, E., and Cohen, D.

Year: 2020


Despite the high severity, and high injury burden of ACL injuries there remains limited information on the return-to-sport (RTS) process, particularly in elite female football players.

This study aimed to follow and document the RTS process, including the gym-based physical preparation, and the on-pitch (sports-specific) reconditioning.


The idea of a ‘return to function’ paradigm may not necessarily be appropriate in elite sport, whereby instead we should be aiming towards a ‘return to performance’ which should aim to identify and resolve deficits in performance.

The use of a performance-based approach should aim to go beyond returning an athlete to previous condition, but rather return the athlete with greater capabilities than pre-injury.


  • ACL rehabilitation is complex and the collection of objective pre-injury data, informed clinical reasoning and a shared decision-making process is crucial to the RTS process.
  • Individualised rehabilitation should not only consider the specifics of the injury itself, but also the individualised player’s competition demands, their cognitive, neuromuscular, and mechanical response to the injury, as well as the consequent unloading and reloading components applied during the rehabilitation process.

Read the full paper here. 

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