Background Knee reinjury after ACL reconstruction is common and increases the risk of osteoarthritis. There is sparse evidence to guide return to sport (RTS) decisions in this population.
Objectives To assess the relationship between knee reinjury after ACL reconstruction and (1) return to level I sports, (2) timing of RTS and (3) knee function prior to return.
Methods 106 patients who participated in pivoting sports participated in this prospective 2-year cohort study. Sports participation and knee reinjury were recorded monthly. Knee function was assessed with the Knee Outcome Survey—Activities of Daily Living Scale, global rating scale of function, and quadriceps strength and hop test symmetry. Pass RTS criteria were defined as scores >90 on all tests, failure as failing any.
Results Patients who returned to level I sports had a 4.32 (p=0.048) times higher reinjury rate than those who did not. The reinjury rate was significantly reduced by 51% for each month RTS was delayed until 9 months after surgery, after which no further risk reduction was observed. 38.2% of those who failed RTS criteria suffered reinjuries versus 5.6% of those who passed (HR 0.16, p=0.075). More symmetrical quadriceps strength prior to return significantly reduced the knee reinjury rate.
Conclusions Returning to level I sports after ACL reconstruction leads to a more than 4-fold increase in reinjury rates over 2 years. RTS 9 months or later after surgery and more symmetrical quadriceps strength prior to return substantially reduce the reinjury rate.
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