In athletes, significant advances in anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction techniques and rehabilitation have led to improved surgical outcomes and increased expectations for return to play. Although an expeditious return to sport has become an achievable and often realistic goal, the factors that most influence safe, timely, and successful return to play remain unknown. The literature offers mainly anecdotal evidence to guide the team physician in the decision-making process, with a paucity of criteria and consensus guidelines available to help determine return to sport.
Attempts have been made to introduce criteria-based progression in the rehabilitation process, but validation of subjective and objective criteria has been difficult. Nevertheless, several pertinent factors in the preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative periods may affect return to play following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. Further research is warranted to validate reliable, consensus guidelines with objective criteria to facilitate the return to play process.