• Vol. 37 No. 4, 273–278
  • 15 April 2008

Return to Sports After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction – A Review of Patients with Minimum 5-year Follow-up



Introduction: It is difficult to counsel the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) deficient patient considering surgical reconstruction on the likelihood of eventual return to sports as information on this is lacking, especially in the Asian context. We wanted to determine how many of our patients who had ACL surgery returned to their previous levels of sports, 5 years after their surgery. For those that had not returned to their previous levels of sports, we wanted to identify their reasons for not doing so.

Materials and Methods: Based on our inclusion criteria of a minimum 5-year follow-up after primary ACL reconstruction, 146 patients were identified for assessment. Sixty-four patients were successfully recalled. The mean age of our patients was 24.8 years (range, 18 to 40). The patients completed the Lysholm Knee, Tegner activity and the Subjective International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) questionnaires. Clinical examination of the operated knee was performed according to the Objective IKDC evaluation form and with a KT-1000 arthrometer.

Results: The mean Lysholm score was 85.2 and the mean subjective IKDC score was 79.5. 81.2% of our patients had normal or nearly normal knees (IKDC A or B) with the remaining 18.8% at IKDC grade C. The mean side-side difference for anterior translation using the KT-1000 arthrometer was 1.2 mm. The median pre-injury Tegner activity level was 7 and the median 5-year post-surgery Tegner activity level was 6. Nineteen patients did not return to their pre-injury sports levels because of social reasons and were excluded. From the remaining 45 patients, 28 patients (62.2%) returned to their previous level of sports and 17 patients (28.8%) did not return to their previous level of sports. Of whom, 9 (20%) said that they did not return due to fear of re-injury and the remaining 8 (17.8%) said they had not returned because of knee instability and pain. At 5 years, the subgroup of patients who had returned to sport had the best scores: Lysholm (88.5), subjective IKDC (84.6) and IKDC Grade A&B (89.3%). When we compared this with the subgroups that did not return to sport because of fear of re-injury and because of an unstable knee, we found that the difference in knee outcome scores between these 3 groups were statistically significant.

Conclusion: Sixty-two per cent of our patients returned to their previous level of sport at 5 years after ACL reconstruction. Fear of re-injury is an important psychological factor for these patients not returning to sports. Our results would allow the attending surgeon to counsel the ACL deficient patient who is considering surgical reconstruction the likelihood of eventual return to sports.

Complete anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture results in a mechanically unstable knee. ACL reconstruction is recommended in athletes to help restore knee stability for return to pivoting sports.

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