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Rosa M. Rodriguez, Ashley Marroquin and Nicole Cosby

Clinical Scenario: The anterior cruciate ligament is one of the major stabilizing ligaments of the knee joint by preventing anterior translation of the femur in the closed kinetic chain. A ruptured anterior cruciate ligament may require reconstructive surgery for patients who wish to return to physical activity. For the most part, surgeries are successful at repairing the ruptured ligament and restoring ligamentous function; the percentage of athletes that return to a competitive level of physical activity is only 44%, and 24% of patients report a main factor of preventing their return is fear of reinjury and pain. Most physiotherapy and rehabilitation research has focused on the physical treatment and is limited on the psychological aspects of recovery. Imagery has been suggested to be effective at reducing anxiety, tension, and pain, while promoting and encouraging healing after an injury. Imagery is defined as a process of performing a skill in one’s mind using the senses (touch, feel, smell, vision, etc) without any overt actions. Clinical Question: In athletes who are first-time anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction patients, does imagery training in combination with standard physical therapy reduce the fear of reinjury and pain perception? Summary of Key Findings: Previous research has primarily looked at the physical treatment aspect, and few studies have focused on the psychological factors affecting recovery. Researchers concluded that fear of reinjury was the unique predictor of return to sport even in a sample of participants that reported very little or almost no pain at all. Imagery as a therapy is an effective intervention in reducing fear of reinjury and confidence building. Furthermore, mental imagery is suggested to assist with a reduction in anxiety, pain, and tension, while promoting healing. Clinical Bottom Line: Based on the strength of recommendation taxonomy, there is a combination of level A and B evidence proposing that imagery, in combination with traditional physical therapy, can be effective at reducing psychological distress such as fear of reinjury and pain perception in first-time anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction patients.