Single Leg Hop Testing

When are you ready to return to sports?

Photo of a man running up the stairs.
Single leg hop testing can determine when you can get back running after injury. DaveLongMedia/ E+/ Getty Images

Single leg hop tests are a method that your physical therapist or doctor may use to determine your ability to return to high level athletics following knee surgery. They are commonly used during the return to function phase in an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rehabilitation protocol to assess the functional stability of your knee.

There are various methods used to administer the single leg hop tests.

Some methods involve hopping in a straight line, others assess diagonal hopping, and some assess hopping on one leg for distance.

Who Should Perform Single Leg Hop Testing?

If you have had ACL surgery and wish to return to high level sports that require running, stopping and starting, and cutting maneuvers, then single leg hop testing may be used. Of course, you should check with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any rehabilitation program or testing to be sure that you are ready to impart such forces around your knee.

In general, your reported pain level in your knee should be 0/10 (where 0 is no pain and 10 is excruciating pain). You should also have full range of motion (ROM) in your knee and the strength of your quadriceps and hamstrings should be good. A negative anterior drawer test should also be present, indicating an intact ACL.

How to Perform Single Leg Hop Testing

To perform straight line single leg hop testing, find an area where you have ample room to move with no obstructions.

A gymnasium is the best place to perform single leg hopping tests.

Single leg hop:

  • For single leg hopping, stand on one foot with your toes behind a line marked on the floor.
  • Hop forward as far as possible, landing on the same foot from which you took off.
  • Measure and record the distance you hopped in centimeters (cm).
  • Repeat the test two times for both legs, recording the distance hopped each time.

Single leg triple hop:

  • For straight line triple hopping, stand on one foot with your toes behind a line marked on the floor.
  • Hop forward as far as possible for three consecutive hops.
  • Measure and record the distance you hopped in centimeters.
  • Repeat the test two times for both legs, recording the distance hopped each time.

Single leg diagonal triple hop:

  • For diagonal triple hopping, mark a line on the floor about 6 meters long. (Using adhesive tape here is a good idea.
  • Stand on one foot and hop forward and over the line.
  • Continue hopping in a zig-zag pattern over the line for three hops.
  • Record your distance hopped (in centimeters) for your injured leg and uninjured leg.

Timed single leg hop over 6 meters:

  • For single leg distance hopping, stand on one foot with your 6 meter line extending out in front of you.
  • Hop as quickly as you can on one foot until you reach the end of the 6 meters.
  • Record the time it takes for you to hop 6 meters on one foot.

    Determining the Results

    The results of the single leg hop tests are compared to accepted norms at 4 months and 6 months after ACL surgery. Be sure to speak with your doctor and physical therapist about your results so you understand exactly what they indicate.

    Single leg hop:
    The expected values for your injured leg in the single leg hop test are 137 cm for males and 121 cm for females at 4 months after surgery. At the 6 month mark, norms for the single leg hop test are 149 cm and 133 cm for males and females, respectively.

    Single leg triple hop:
    For the triple hop, the norms at the 4 month post-op mark are 401 cm and 343 cm for males and females, respectively. The expected norms at the 6-month point after surgery are 420 cm for males and 363 cm for females.

    Single leg diagonal triple hop:
    Expected values for the diagonal triple hop are 358 and 305 cm for males and females, respectively at the 4-month point, and are 377 cm and 337 cm at the 6-month point.

    Timed single leg hop for distance:
    Expected times 4 months after surgery for the timed single leg hop are 2.7 seconds for males and 3.0 seconds for females. Six months after ACL surgery, the expected times are 2.4 seconds and 2.8 seconds for males and females, respectively.

    Remember not to focus too much on your specific scores. It is important to measure how your knee feels while performing single leg hop tests as well. You are the best judge of how your knee is feeling while performing any high level plyometric activity and exercise. Using the scores and your own feeling during the tests can help determine if you are ready to return to sports.

    Single leg hopping tests are simple, yet effective, ways of assessing your ability to return to sports following knee surgery such as an ACL repair. The tests give you an idea of the overall function of your knee and help you decide if you are ready to return to sports that require cutting, jumping, or rapid stopping and starting. If you have had knee surgery, a visit to your local physical therapist to try single leg hopping tests may be necessary before returning to your previous level of activity and athletics.

    Source: Reid, A., Birmingham, T., et al. Hop Testing Provides a Reliable and Valid Outcome Measure During Rehabilitation After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction. Physical Therapy March 2007 vol. 87 no. 3, 337-349.

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