Using a Biopsychosocial Approach Within ACL Rehabilitation: An Exploration of Student Physiotherapists' Perceptions and Experiences

Jo Ann Kaye, Daniel Spence, Jen Alexanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Supporting the psychological needs of the patient during Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction (ACLR) rehabilitation is of paramount importance in order to optimize function and return to sport. Despite this, the amount of psychological training physiotherapists receive is inadequate. Purpose: the central aim of this study was to gain valuable insight, through the lens of the student physiotherapist, in relation to biopsychosocial practices used within ACL rehabilitation. Method: A phenomenological design using an inductive approach through purposive sampling was used. The study conducted semi-structured interviews, which involved ten undergraduate and postgraduate physiotherapy students from a UK University institution. The study identified perceptions, experiences and training surrounding a biopsychosocial approach within ACL rehabilitation. Data analysis included thematic analysis with triangulation and an audit trail to enhance confirmability and credibility. Results: Participants demonstrated a superficial understanding of the biopsychosocial approach, psychological symptoms and the significance of applying a patient-centered approach. Nonetheless, participants consistently reported barriers to implementing this approach, including the application of theory to practice when working with patients following ACL surgery. Discussion: Findings were consistent with previous research surrounding inadequate biopsychosocial education and training within ACL rehabilitation. The application of theory of the model to clinical practice was absent from the students' training. Conclusion: These findings suggest that student physiotherapists are aware of the possible benefits of incorporating psychological interventions but feel inadequately trained, highlighting a need for a review of the curriculum. Future research focusing on pedagogy-based strategies to effectively equip students to apply biopsychosocial theory to practice is of critical importance to prepare students for contemporary ACL rehabilitation and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1718-1730
Number of pages13
JournalPhysiotherapy Theory and Practice
Issue number11
Early online date8 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2022
Externally publishedYes


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