The clinical utility of functional performance tests within one-year post-acl reconstruction: a systematic review

Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2011 Dec;6(4):333-42.


Introduction: A tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) represents a significant injury for an athlete that requires substantial time away from sport, and significant rehabilitation after reconstruction. The physical therapist is responsible to determine when a patient is capable of tolerating the physical demands of daily activities and to attempt to prevent re-injury. Physical or functional performance tests (FPTs) are one mechanism used to evaluate the athlete's physical skills and capabilities prior to returning to sports participation. The purpose of this systematic review is to critically examine the clinical utility of functional performance tests used with patients less than or equal to one year post ACL reconstruction.

Methods: A systematic review of the relevant literature was performed using PRISMA guidelines. A total of twelve studies were included for analysis.

Results: Two independent blinded reviewers then analyzed and rated the final included articles (n=12) utilizing the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale (NOS). Percent overall agreement between raters for the NOS was 88% with a fixed-marginal kappa (κ) of 0.80. Of the 12 included articles, the FPTs were utilized as an outcome measure within the study design (41.7%) or studied as a measure of function (58.3%). Among those studies that used FPTs as a "measure of function" 71.4% studied a battery of FPTs, while 28.6% studied a single test. None of the studies utilized FPTs as a measure to determine readiness to return to sport.

Discussion: FPTs are being utilized with patients, less than or equal to one year post ACL reconstruction, either as an assessment of functional performance or as an outcome measure. No studies identified a FPT or test battery that has construct or predictive validity for "return to sport" in athletic population one-year post-ACL reconstruction. The identification of the critical elements within the return to sport construct may allow lower extremity performance tests to be developed or test batteries assembled to incorporate the appropriate tests to examine all of these elements deemed critical. Additionally the current FPTs should undergo content and predictive validation to assist the sports physical therapist in determining the readiness of the athlete for return to sport.

Keywords: ACL reconstruction; athlete; physical performance measure.