Sports life after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

Author(s): Kate E. Webster


Most athletes who undergo anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction surgery plan to return to some level of sporting activity. However, rates of return to pre-injury sport are often less than might be expected and many factors influence whether individuals return to sport after this surgery. They include surgical and rehabilitation factors as well as social, psychological and demographic characteristics. The fate of the younger athlete who sustains an ACL injury is a topic that has received recent attention due to accumulating evidence that younger athletes are at considerable risk for not only one, but multiple ACL injuries. Little is known about how to determine when it is safe to return to sport following ACL reconstruction or how to predict whether an athlete will be able to successfully return. The notion that a set of return to sport criteria can be applied to reduce the risk of further injury has become popular with many different criteria proposed. Another risk of returning to sport following ACL reconstruction is that of sustaining injury to the menisci or articular surfaces, which may in turn increase the risk of developing osteoarthritis. Although there is some evidence that ACL reconstruction reduces the risk of osteoarthritis there is stronger evidence that it does little to protect the knee from long term degeneration. Therefore, it should be recognized that return to sport following ACL reconstruction is associated with a risk of further injury and potential development of osteoarthritis.

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