Group Telerehabilitation in the COVID-19 Era: a new Approach

Person-centred experience for telerehabilitation following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction – part of the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports and Exercise Medicine’s blog series

The rationale for this project is to co-design (1) alternative ways of engaging with patients using telehealth frameworks (2) and provide person-centred rehabilitation post-surgical reconstruction for anterior cruciate ligament injury (ACL-R).

Rationale for ‘Group’ Telerehabilitation Following Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction (ACL-R) surgery is a common procedure. (3)  However, despite around 80% of ACL-R patients returning to some kind of sporting activities, only 65% return to their pre-injury level and 55% to competitive sport (4).  Inadequate rehabilitation has been cited alongside poor preparation for return to sport as factors which could limit sporting performance and predispose to re-injury (5) (6) (7) .  A systematic review with meta-analysis by Wiggins et al. (2016) estimated approximately 20% of those returning to sport following ACL-R experience a second ACL injury (8).  With a heterogeneous selection of ACL-R rehabilitation protocols available online (9) and within the literature, (10) in conjunction with the disruption to physiotherapy rehabilitation services during the COVID-19 pandemic, it could be argued that a perfect storm has been created for poor provision for those rehabilitating from ACL-R.  This could be exacerbated as orthopaedic services resume without the follow through capacity to adequately rehabilitate post-surgery.

Co-design of Novel Telerehabilitation Products and Processes Following ACL-R

Use of co-design in healthcare environments is relatively new (11) with no standard model for doing so being applied.  Indeed, it is noted by Brocklehurst et al. (2018) that many different methodologies could be used (12) with co-design involving collaborative and evolving processes, with ownership and a practical focus being key according to some (13).  With involvement of stakeholders to broaden the range of available ideas and gain their views being central in underpinning patient-centred rehabilitation (14) (15) post ACL-R, it was deemed prudent to harvest patients’ views in constructing the novel telerehabilitation products and processes.  This was initially done via an on-line survey, link below:

On-line video resources with pertinent points of the rehabilitation exercises are currently being produced, as this was identified from survey results by patients as an important part of their ACL-R rehabilitation, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with a continuing reduced capacity for face-to-face physiotherapist engagement.

As this pilot for ‘Group’ telerehabilitation post ACL-R is rolled out, support for patients is provided via video conferencing using Near Me Video facilities within NHS settings.  This allows appropriate regressions or progressions to be made for the patient within an evidence based post ACL-R protocol which both the physiotherapist and patient have access too.  As part of the monitoring the Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) is known to have validity and reliability in measuring the functional status and quality of life for patients following ACL-R and is valid for research purpose with competitive athletes (16).

For those patients wanting to return to sport the Strategic Assessment of Risk and Risk Tolerance (StARRT) Framework established in 2016 (17) is a good starting point for making return to play decisions post ACL-R.

Figure 2. Strategic Assessment of Risk and Risk Tolerance Framework (Ardern, Glasgow, Schneiders et al. 2016)

Return to play should be criteria based and be multi-disciplinary in nature (18) but exactly which criteria and how they should be used is controversial as discussed recently in BJSM Blog regarding the usefulness or otherwise of hop tests in ACL-R criteria (19).

Figure 3. Quality of Landing in Hop Test During ACL-R Rehabilitation (BJSM Blog 2021 Kotsifaki R, Whiteley R, van Rossom S, et al. 2020)


  • Telerehabilitation post ACL-R could address the difficulties associated with adequately preparing individuals for return to sport during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Future work is needed to evaluate this pilot and further develop telerehabilitation products and processes based on participant co-design.

Authors and Affiliations: Jim Scanlan MSc; HCPC; CSP @jim_physio

NHS Fife Advanced Practitioner Physiotherapist Musculoskeletal & Orthopaedics

Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports & Exercise Medicine: Silver Accreditation

Watsonians FC 1st XV Physiotherapist

Acknowledgements: Thank you to the Association Chartered Physiotherapists in Sports and Exercise Medicine @physiosinsport and British Journal of Sports Medicine @BJSM_BMJ for their support in publishing this Blog.

Competing Interests: Thank you to National Education for Scotland (NES) @NESnmahp for award of fellowship funding in order to undertake this project and for the support of NHS Fife @nhsfife


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