Summit’s ASCEND Program: Guiding Surgical Patients Back To High-Level Performance

Three to nine months of rehabilitative physical therapy is standard after hip, knee, or ankle surgery. For athletes and active professionals who want to reclaim a higher level of physical performance following surgery, Summit Orthopedics developed the ASCEND program.

Rehabilitation is a critical component of recovery after an ACL tear or other lower extremity injury, but outcome goals are as individual as the patients we treat. One patient may be delighted with a three-month rehab program that returns him to his after-dinner strolls without pain. For injured competitive athletes, physical performance goals cannot be fully met with three months of physical therapy. The ASCEND program was created for individuals who are looking to safely return to higher levels of physical activity.

Two Summit physical therapists who helped develop Summit’s ASCEND Return to Sport program explain how it bridges the gap between standard postoperative rehabilitation therapy and the performance goals of committed athletes.

“Traditional rehabilitation is focused on helping patients regain functionality,” explains ASCEND physical therapist Kyle Hall. “Functionality encompasses things like walking normally, climbing stairs, and getting in and out of a chair or car. Therapy to regain these normal activities of daily living is covered by health insurance. Getting back to a high level of athletic performance is a different matter. Athletic competition requires skills including running, sprinting, executing stops and starts, pivoting, jumping without an imbalance between the injured and uninjured leg, and kicking. Without training for these skills, athletes face a significant risk of re-tearing an ACL three to nine months after surgery. We also know that 45 percent of injured patients report that they never regained their pre-injury skill level.”

“At five to seven months after surgery, recovering athletes can do some jumping and plyometrics in physical therapy, but may not feel confident enough to return to sport yet,” says ASCEND physical therapist Jenny Blade. “They may also have muscle imbalances. When I was a student athlete with a torn ACL, there weren’t any programs like ASCEND. I went back to sport favoring my surgical leg, and eventually tore the ACL on my other leg.”

Working with other physical therapists and Dr. Jack Skendzel, Kyle and Jenny developed Summit’s ASCEND program to provide the specialized conditioning athletes need, bridging the gap between standard therapy and return to play, with a focus on injury prevention. “We encourage appropriate patients to consider the ASCEND program when they are three to seven months post-op,” says Kyle. “At this point in their rehab, they’ve regained functionality and are ready for more intensive conditioning.”

“ASCEND is a six-week evidence-based program,” says Jenny. “We run six programs a year with up to eight patients per program. The athletes will meet twice a week for 75 to 90 minutes. Each session will focus on agility, plyometrics, strength, core, and endurance. We love the camaraderie that develops in our groups, and it’s rewarding to support these patients through the entire recovery process until they return to sports. Our goal is to get our ASCEND patients up to a level of performance that is as good or better than where they were before surgery.”

 

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