Limb Symmetry Indexes Can Overestimate Knee Function After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury

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Abstract

STUDY DESIGN:

Prospective cohort.

BACKGROUND:

The high risk of second anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries after return to sport highlights the importance of return-to-sport decision making. Objective return-to-sport criteria frequently use limb symmetry indexes (LSIs) to quantify quadriceps strength and hop scores. Whether using the uninvolved limb in LSIs is optimal is unknown.

OBJECTIVES:

To evaluate the uninvolved limb as a reference standard for LSIs utilized in return-to-sport testing and its relationship with second ACL injury rates.

METHODS:

Seventy athletes completed quadriceps strength and 4 single-leg hop tests before anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) and 6 months after ACLR. Limb symmetry indexes for each test compared involved-limb measures at 6 months to uninvolved-limb measures at 6 months. Estimated preinjury capacity (EPIC) levels for each test compared involved-limb measures at 6 months to uninvolved-limb measures before ACLR. Second ACL injuries were tracked for a minimum follow-up of 2 years after ACLR.

RESULTS:

Forty (57.1%) patients achieved 90% LSIs for quadriceps strength and all hop tests. Only 20 (28.6%) patients met 90% EPIC levels (comparing the involved limb at 6 months after ACLR to the uninvolved limb before ACLR) for quadriceps strength and all hop tests. Twenty-four (34.3%) patients who achieved 90% LSIs for all measures 6 months after ACLR did not achieve 90% EPIC levels for all measures. Estimated preinjury capacity levels were more sensitive than LSIs in predicting second ACL injuries (LSIs, 0.273; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.010, 0.566 and EPIC, 0.818; 95% CI: 0.523, 0.949).

CONCLUSION:

Limb symmetry indexes frequently overestimate knee function after ACLR and may be related to second ACL injury risk. These findings raise concern about whether the variable ACL return-to-sport criteria utilized in current clinical practice are stringent enough to achieve safe and successful return to sport.

LEVEL OF EVIDENCE:

Prognosis, 2b. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2017;47(5):334-338. Epub 29 Mar 2017. doi:10.2519/jospt.2017.7285

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