Factors Influencing Recovery from Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction (ACLR) in High-Performance Athletes
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Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) is a common occurrence in sport, with high-performance athletes at particular risk. Current research in this area has focused mainly on the outcomes of ACLR, with little apparent research into the actual recovery experience of individuals, especially for high-performance athletes. To investigate this apparent gap, the current study explored elite and semi-elite athletes experienced recovery following ACLR and the factors influencing this experience. Semi-structured interviews were completed with eight athletes involved in various sports including football, hockey, indoor cricket, netball and futsal. An interpretive description methodology was used to explore and analyse the data. Results highlighted that recovery from ACLR is a long, multifactorial process. Four main themes were identified from the data. (1) “As a mental battle, it’s a bit of a rollercoaster” relating to the psychological aspect to recovery. (2) “Oh ACL’s, I know a bit about this ” relating to the importance of education, perceived professional competency and the therapeutic relationship. (3) “It’s not going to stop me from playing ever” relating to the cognitive aspects of mindset, motivation and goal-orientated focus. (4) “Rehab is just one side of it” relating to the broader life aspects of occupational demands, social aspects and re-emergence in sport. Collectively, these themes illustrate that the psychological aspects of recovery are important to ACLR recovery in high-performance athletes. As a result, it is important that professionals facilitating ACLR recovery need to be attentive to individual experience and the potential factors that might need addressing prior to surgery and throughout rehabilitation. Further research is required to explore the recovery experience in more depth, especially in relation to contact time with health professionals and athletes’ re-emergence into sport participation during rehabilitation.