Do Patients Failing Return-to-Activity Criteria at 6 Months After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Continue Demonstrating Deficits at 2 Years?

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Abstract

Background:

The variability in outcomes after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) might be related to the criteria that are used to determine athletes’ readiness to return to their preinjury activity level. A battery of return-to-activity criteria (RTAC) that emphasize normal knee function and movement symmetry has been instituted to quantitatively determine athletes’ readiness to return to preinjury activities.

Purpose:

To investigate performance-based and patient-reported measures at 12 and 24 months after ACLR between patients who passed or failed RTAC at 6 months after ACLR.

Study Design:

Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2.

Methods:

A total of 108 patients who had participated in International Knee Documentation Committee level 1 or 2 sports activities completed RTAC testing at 6, 12, and 24 months after surgery. The RTAC included the isometric quadriceps strength index (QI), 4 single-legged hop tests, the Knee Outcome Survey–activities of daily living subscale (KOS-ADLS), and the global rating scale of perceived function (GRS). Patients who scored ≥90% on all RTAC were classified as the pass group, and those who scored <90% on any RTAC were classified as the fail group. At 12- and 24-month follow-ups, patients were asked if they had returned to the same preinjury activity level.

Results:

At the 6-month follow-up, there were 48 patients in the pass group and 47 in the fail group. At the 12-month follow-up, 31 patients (73.8%) from the pass group and 15 patients (39.5%) from the fail group passed RTAC, and at the 24-month follow-up, 25 patients (75.8%) from the pass group and 14 patients (51.9%) from the fail group passed RTAC. The rate of return to activities in the pass group was 81% and 84% at 12 and 24 months after ACLR, respectively, compared with only 44% and 46% in the fail group (P ≤ .012), respectively; however, some patients in the fail group participated in preinjury activities without being cleared by their therapists. At 12 and 24 months, 60.5% and 48.1% of patients continued to fail again on the criteria, respectively. A statistically significant group × time interaction was found for the single hop and 6-m timed hop limb symmetry indices (LSIs) (P ≤ .037), with only the fail group demonstrating a significant improvement over time. A main effect of group was detected for the QI and the crossover hop and triple hop LSIs (P < .01), with patients in the pass group demonstrating higher performance. A main effect of time was detected for the crossover hop and triple hop LSIs and the GRS, with improvements seen in both groups (P < .05).

Conclusion:

Patients who passed the RTAC early after ACLR were more likely to demonstrate normal knee function and movement symmetry at 12 and 24 months postoperatively, while patients who failed the RTAC early were more likely to demonstrate impaired knee function and movement asymmetry at 12- and 24-month follow-ups. Patients in the pass group had a higher rate of return to their preinjury activity level compared with those in the fail group. A group of patients chose to return to their preinjury activities, even though they were functionally not ready.

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