Background: Factors and details regarding return to play in elite, collegiate female soccer athletes after an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury and reconstruction have not been well studied.
Purpose: To evaluate return to play among collegiate female soccer players, specifically examining the effect of surgical and individual athlete characteristics on the return-to-play rate.
Study design: Descriptive epidemiology study.
Methods: Sports medicine and athletic training staff at institutions from the National Collegiate Athletic Association Southeastern Conference (SEC) were contacted to request participation in the study. All institutions were sent a standardized spreadsheet with response choices and instructions regarding athlete inclusion criteria. Athlete, injury, surgical technique, and return-to-play data were requested for ACL reconstructions performed on female soccer athletes at the participating institutions over the previous 8 years. χ(2) analyses were used to compare the return-to-play rate by year in school, scholarship status, position, depth chart status, procedure, graft type, graft fixation, concomitant procedures, and previous ACL injuries.
Results: All 14 of the SEC institutions chose to participate and provided data. A total of 80 ACL injuries were reported, with 79 surgical reconstructions and return-to-play data for 78 collegiate soccer athletes. The overall return-to-play rate was 85%. There was a statistical significance in return-to-play rates favoring athletes in earlier years of eligibility versus later years (P < .001). Athletes in eligibility years 4 and 5 combined had a return-to-play rate of only 40%. Scholarship status likewise showed significance (P < .001), demonstrating a higher return-to-play rate for scholarship athletes (91%) versus nonscholarship athletes (46%). No significant differences in return-to-play rates were observed based on surgical factors, including concomitant knee procedures, graft type, and graft fixation method.
Conclusion: Collegiate female soccer athletes have a high initial return-to-play rate. Undergoing ACL reconstruction earlier in the college career as well as the presence of a scholarship had a positive effect on return to play. Surgical factors including graft type, fixation method, tunnel placement technique, concomitant knee surgeries, and revision status demonstrated no significant effect on the return-to-play rate.
Keywords: anterior cruciate ligament; female athlete; return to play.
© 2015 The Author(s).