Context: Typically, athletic trainers rely on clinician-centered measures to evaluate athletes' return-to-play status. However, clinician-centered measures do not provide information regarding patients' perceptions.
Objective: To determine whether clinically important changes in patient-reported outcomes were observed from the time of lower extremity injury to the time of return to play in adolescent athletes.
Design: Cross-sectional study.
Setting: The National Athletic Treatment, Injury and Outcomes Network (NATION) program has captured injury and treatment data in 31 sports from 147 secondary schools across 26 states. A subsample of 24 schools participated in the outcomes study arm during the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 academic years.
Patients or other participants: To be included in this report, student-athletes must have sustained a knee, lower leg, ankle, or foot injury that restricted participation from sport for at least 3 days. A total of 76 initial assessments were started by athletes; for 69 of those, return-to-play surveys were completed and analyzed.
Main outcome measure(s): All student-athletes completed generic patient-reported outcome measures (Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System [PROMIS] survey, Global Rating of Change scale, and Numeric Pain Rating Scale) and, depending on body region, completed an additional region-specific measure (Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score or Foot and Ankle Ability Measure). All applicable surveys were completed at both the initial and return-to-play time points. Means and standard deviations for the total scores of each patient-reported outcome measure at each time point were calculated. Change scores that reflected the difference from the initial to the return-to-play time points were calculated for each participant and compared with established benchmarks for change.
Results: The greatest improvement in patient-reported outcomes was in the region-specific forms, with scores ranging from 9.92 to 37.73 on the different region-specific subscales (Knee Injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score or Foot and Ankle Ability Measure; scores range from 0-100). The region-specific subscales on average still showed a 21.8- to 37.5-point deficit in reported health at return to play. The PROMIS Lower Extremity score increased on average by 13 points; all other PROMIS scales were within normative values after injury.
Conclusions: Adolescent athletes who were injured at a high school with an athletic trainer may have shown improvement in patient-reported outcomes over time, but when they returned to play, their outcome scores remained lower than norms from comparable athlete groups.
Keywords: NATION; high school; patient-reported outcomes.