The father of accelerated rehabilitation Dr Don Shelbourne on history and managing ACL injuries
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Tags: bjsm

Dr Donald Shelbourne is an orthopedic surgeon at The Shelbourne Clinic in Indianapolis, Indiana. He has performed more than 6,000 ACL reconstructions since 1982 and he is credited with developing the ‘accelerated rehabilitation program’. He discusses the history of the field and how he contributed to eliminating the big problem of the ‘stiff stable’ knee. He does NOT detail the rehabilitation method itself. He has an interesting thought on the role of ACL reconstruction in young people who suffer ACL tears.

See the timeline below that includes a paper referred to in the discussion and two additional BJSM resources. If I had to create a short slogan for the podcast I would go with ‘Symmetric Motion is Key’.

1:00 How Dr Shelbourne discovered accelerated rehabilitation
3:00 The problem of knees that were too stiff after ACL surgery in the 1980s.
4:00 The problem of excessively large ACL grafts and graft hypertrophy blocking knee extension
4:40 Casts contributing to knees becoming ‘stiff-stable’. Knees not returning to full extension (1980s)
6:00 Moving patients from plaster to one hour a day of a limited motion brace
6:50 Dr Shelbourne comments on augmented lateral procedures today. Discusses hamstring grafts and allografts in this context. His rationale for ipsilateral patellar tendon grafts.
9:40 Patellar tendon donor site problems – the role of physiotherapy in solving the problem
9:10 A comment on Dr Leo Pinzewski’s 20 year post-ACL surgery followup study. (Hamstring graft) Paper in American Journal of Sports Medicine ( See also Professors Hutchinson and McCormack discuss that paper in BJSM ( They also have a new editorial on ACL outcomes online first as this podcast goes live (
10:50 Stiffness is not acceptable. Patients prefer a bit of instability with full range of motion than a stiff stable knee. Stiff knee is a time bomb for osteoarthritis.
12:00 Who should have an ACL reconstruction? About half of patients who have ACL injuries are not getting back to sport at the previous level. “In a way you are much better off having non-operative treatment….”
13:00 If you are wondering whether to have surgery or not after ACL injury – go for conservative management first. “Nothing to lose”. “A stiff knee is a time bomb for osteoarthritis later on.”
13:45 Osteoarthritis. Patients who don’t get all their movement back have a high risk of osteoarthritis moving forward. Many surgeons overlook the loss of motion as a risk factor.

Related podcasts:
Dr Mark Hutchinson on ACL reconstruction:
Dr Mark Hutchinson on meniscectomy for symptoms of painful locking and clicking:

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