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Variables associated with return to sport following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction: a systematic review


Background As one of the purposes of anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) is to return athletes to their preinjury activity level, it is critical to understand variables influencing return to sport. Associations between return to sport and variables representing knee impairment, function and psychological status have not been well studied in athletes following ACLR.

Purpose The purpose of this review was to summarise the literature reporting on variables proposed to be associated with return to sport following ACLR.

Study design Systematic review.

Methods Medline, EMBASE, CINAHL and Cochrane databases were searched for articles published before November 2012. Articles included in this review met these criteria: (1) included patients with primary ACLR, (2) reported at least one knee impairment, function or psychological measure, (3) reported a return to sport measure and (4) analysed the relationship between the measure and return to sport.

Results Weak evidence existed in 16 articles suggesting variables associated with return to sport included higher quadriceps strength, less effusion, less pain, greater tibial rotation, higher Marx Activity score, higher athletic confidence, higher preoperative knee self-efficacy, lower kinesiophobia and higher preoperative self-motivation.

Conclusions Weak evidence supports an association between knee impairment, functional and psychological variables and return to sport. Current return to sport guidelines should be updated to reflect all variables associated with return to sport. Utilising evidence-based return to sport guidelines following ACLR may ensure that athletes are physically and psychologically capable of sports participation, which may reduce reinjury rates and the need for subsequent surgery.

  • Knee ACL
  • Sports rehabilitation programs
  • Physiotherapy
  • Psychology

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