Purpose: The purpose of this study was to utilize a novel functional test system to facilitate determining the time of return to sports following ACL reconstruction.
Methods: Sixty-nine patients with unilateral ACL reconstruction were included in this pilot study. All the patients performed a standardized test battery consisting of one- and two-legged stability tests, counter movement jumps, speedy jumps, plyometric jumps and a quick feed test. The first test was administered on average 170.7 ± 75.1 days post-operatively, and the retest was administered on average 239.1 ± 79.7 days post-operatively. The values of the subtests were compared with the normative data of healthy gender- and age-matched controls to determine the functional capacities of patients following ACL reconstruction.
Results: After the first and second test, 15.9 and 17.4 % of the patients met the criteria for a "return to non-competitive sports". One patient fulfilled the criteria for a "return to competitive sports" after the second test battery. The most limiting factor was a poor LSI value of <90 % if the dominant leg was involved and <80 % if the non-dominant leg was involved.
Conclusion: This test battery demonstrates that, in terms of neuromuscular abilities, most patients, compared to healthy controls, are most likely not ready for a safe return to sports, even 8 months post-operatively. This should be considered in the future to determine when it is safe to return to sports and should avoid a premature return to competitive sports.
Level of evidence: III.