Although anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction is considered a successful procedure in restoring knee stability, few studies have addressed the issue of aerobic capacity after ACL surgery. Soccer players need technical, tactical and physical skills to succeed, such as good knee function and aerobic capacity. Our purpose is to evaluate aerobic fitness in ACL injured professional football players and six months after ACL reconstruction compared to a control group. Twenty athletes with ACL injury were evaluated and underwent ACL reconstruction with hamstrings autograft, and were compared to twenty healthy professional soccer players. The methods used to evaluate aerobic fitness were maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) and ventilatory thresholds with a treadmill protocol, before and six months after surgery, compared to a control group. Knee function questionnaires, isokinetic strength testing and body composition evaluation were also performed.
Results: Median ACL-injured patients age was 21 years old, and controls 20.5 years old. (n.s.). Preoperative VO2max in the ACL injured group was 45.2 ± 4.3 mL/kg/min, postoperative 48.9 ± 3.8 mL/kg/min and controls 56.9 ± 4.2 mL/kg/min. (p< .001 in all comparisons). Body composition evaluation was similar in all situations. Knee function questionnaires and quadriceps peak torque deficit improved after surgery but were significantly lower compared to controls.
Conclusion: Aerobic fitness is significantly reduced in professional soccer players with ACL injury, and six months of rehabilitation was not enough to restore aerobic function after ACL reconstruction, compared to non-injured players of the same level.