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Subjective functional assessments and the return to competitive sport after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction
  1. F W Smith2,
  2. E A Rosenlund1,
  3. A K Aune1,
  4. J A MacLean2,
  5. S W Hillis2
  1. 1Volvat Medical Centre, Oslo, Norway
  2. 2Department of Medicine and Therapeutics, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
 Mr Smith
 Huitfeldtsgate 29, Oslo 0253, Norway;


Objectives: To examine (a) return to competitive sport within 12 months of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, (b) maintenance of competitive participation at follow up, and (c) the relation of the level of sports activity and competitive participation at follow up to subjective functional assessments. Also to address the incidence of continued competitive participation despite notable functional problems with the operated knee at 12 months and follow up.

Methods: All patients were competitive athletes before injury and had undergone ACL reconstruction by the transtibial endoscopic technique with either a bone-patellar tendon-bone or a multiple looped hamstring autograft. Evaluation was carried out a mean of 43 months (range 24–73) after surgery by a postal questionnaire in which the Cincinnati sports activity scale (CSAS) and Cincinnati sports function scales were presented in conjunction with closed questions on change in competitive level and the presence of complaints.

Results: Of 109 selected patients, 77 (71%) responded. At follow up, 62 of 77 patients (81%) reported that they had returned to competition within 12 months of surgery. Within the same time frame, 55 of the above 62 patients (89%) also claimed to have returned to the level at which they were competing before injury (or higher). At follow up, 30 of the above 55 patients (54%) reported to still be competing at this high level. Twelve of the above 55 patients (22%) also admitted to major problems with the operated knee at that time. The overall incidence of patients competing despite major functional impairment in the operated knee was 13 of 62 (21%) at 12 months and six of 47 (13%) at follow up. Thirty eight patients (49%) were active in sport at least four times a week at follow up (CSAS level 1), and, using Spearman’s rank correlation between CSAS scores and total sports function scores, r was calculated to be 0.44. Competitive and male patients had higher total sports function scores at follow up than non-competitive (p  =  0.005) and female (p  =  0.02) patients respectively.

Conclusions: The reported return to competition at the previous level, both within 12 months and at follow up, was high but as expected considering the standard of treatment, patient selection, and study exclusion criteria. Patients with few functional complaints maintained a high level of sporting activity, even after discontinuing competitive participation.

  • anterior cruciate ligament
  • athlete
  • comeback
  • functional assessment
  • rehabilitation
  • ACL, anterior cruciate ligand
  • CSAS, Cincinnati sports activity scale
  • CSFS, Cincinnati sports function scales

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