Young athletes return too early to knee-strenuous sport, without acceptable knee function after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction
The purpose of this study was to evaluate the return to knee-strenuous sport rate, muscle function and subjective knee function among adolescent patients (15–20 years of age) and adult patients (21–30 years of age) 8 and 12 months, respectively, after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. It was hypothesised that no differences in outcome would be found between age groups at 8 or 12 months after ACL reconstruction.
Cross-sectional data from five tests of muscle function, from the Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) and the Tegner Activity Scale (Tegner), performed at 8 and 12 months after a primary ACL reconstruction, were extracted from a rehabilitation outcome register. A total of 270 (51% women) athletes, aged 15–30 years, who were all involved in knee-strenuous sport prior the injury, were included at 8 months after ACL reconstruction. At 12 months 203 (51% women) were included. The return to knee-strenuous-sport rates and the rate of achieving a limb symmetry index of ≥ 90% in all five tests of muscle function, defined as recovery of muscle function, and subjective knee function scores, as measured with the KOOS, were compared between age groups.
The adolescent patients had a higher (50%) return to knee-strenuous sport rate compared with the adult patients (38%) 8 months after ACL reconstruction (p = 0.04). At the 12-month follow-up, no difference was found between the age groups; 74 and 63%, respectively. At the 8-month follow-up, 29% of the patients, in both age groups, who had returned to sport had recovered their muscle function in all five tests of muscle function. At the 12-month follow-up, the corresponding results were 20% for the adolescents and 28% for the adult patients. No difference in mean KOOS scores was found between the age groups at 8 or at 12 months after ACL reconstruction.
The majority of young athletes make an early return to knee-strenuous sport after a primary ACL reconstruction, without recovering their muscle function. To set realistic expectations, clinicians are recommended to ensure that young athletes receive information about not to return before muscle function is recovered and that this may take longer time than 12 months.
Level of evidence
Publisher URL: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00167-017-4747-8
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