Return-to-Play Guidelines After Medial Patellofemoral Ligament Surgery for Recurrent Patellar Instability: A Systematic Review

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Abstract

Background:

Medial patellofemoral ligament (MPFL) reconstruction and repair continue to gain acceptance as viable treatment options for recurrent patellar instability in patients who wish to return to sports after surgery. Return-to-play guidelines with objective or subjective criteria for athletes after MPFL surgery, however, have not been uniformly defined.

Purpose:

To determine whether a concise and objective protocol exists that may help athletes return to their sport more safely after MPFL surgery.

Study Design:

Systematic review.

Methods:

The clinical evidence for return to play after MPFL reconstruction was evaluated through a systematic review of the literature. Studies that measured outcomes for isolated MPFL surgery with greater than a 12-month follow-up were included in our study. We analyzed each study for a return-to-play timeline, rehabilitation protocol, and any measurements used to determine a safe return to play after surgery.

Results:

Fifty-three studies met the inclusion criteria, with a total of 1756 patients and 1838 knees. The most commonly cited rehabilitation guidelines included weightbearing restrictions and range of motion restrictions in 90.6% and 84.9% of studies, respectively. Thirty-five of 53 studies (66.0%) included an expected timeline for either return to play or return to full activity. Ten of 53 studies (18.9%) in our analysis included either objective or subjective criteria to determine return to activity within their rehabilitation protocol.

Conclusion:

Most studies in our analysis utilized time-based criteria for determining return to play after MPFL surgery, while only a minority utilized objective or subjective patient-centric criteria. Further investigation is needed to determine safe and effective guidelines for return to play after MPFL reconstruction and repair.

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