Return to sport after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction in professional soccer players

Knee. 2014 Jun;21(3):731-5. doi: 10.1016/j.knee.2014.02.005. Epub 2014 Feb 14.


Background: To investigate time to return to sport and rate of professional sport activity in a homogenous group of competitive soccer players 4 years after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction and rehabilitation.

Methods: Twenty-one male professional soccer players (mean age 22.9±5.4 years) underwent non-anatomical double-bundle autologous hamstring ACL reconstruction and followed the same rehabilitative protocol. Clinical evaluation was performed preoperatively and at 3, 6 and 12-month follow-up. Data regarding return to train and official match, sport activity, complications and revision surgeries were collected at 4-year follow-up.

Results: Laxity test (KT-2000) and total KOOS mean score resulted in a significant improvement from the preoperative status to the 12-month follow-up (p<0.0001). The KOOS mean value showed a significant progressive improvement from the preoperative status to 6-month follow-up (p=0.0010) as well, while values collected at 6 and 12-month follow-up were comparable (p=0.2349). Returned to official matches 186±53 days after surgery. After 12 months, 95% came back to the same activity level performed before injury. Four years after ACL reconstruction, 15 patients (71%) were still playing competitive soccer. One patient (5%) underwent ACL failure and subsequent revision.

Conclusions: The ACL reconstruction with the presented technique followed by patient-tailored rehabilitation, allowed 95% and 62% professional male soccer players to return to the same sport activity 1 year and 4 years after surgery respectively. However, 71% were still able to play competitive soccer at final follow-up. Clinical scores were restored after 6 months.

Level of evidence: IV, case series.

Keywords: Anterior cruciate ligament; Arthroscopy; Double-bundle; Professional soccer players.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament / surgery*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction* / methods
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction* / rehabilitation
  • Arthroscopy
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Recovery of Function*
  • Reoperation
  • Return to Work
  • Soccer / injuries*
  • Tendons / transplantation
  • Transplantation, Autologous
  • Young Adult