Return to Sport After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Requires Evaluation of >2 Functional Tests, Psychological Readiness, Quadriceps/Hamstring Strength, and Time After Surgery of 8 Months

Arthroscopy. 2023 Mar;39(3):790-801.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2022.08.038. Epub 2022 Oct 8.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the factors commonly used to determine readiness for return to sport (RTS) in the ACL reconstruction (ACL-R) patient population and assess which were most influential to successfully returning to sport and avoiding re-tear.

Methods: The PUBMED, EMBASE and Cochrane Library databases were queried for studies related to RTS in ACL-R. Inclusion and exclusion criteria were applied to identify studies with greater than 1-year outcomes detailing the rate of return and re-tear given a described RTS protocol. Data of interest were extracted, and studies were stratified based on level of evidence and selected study features. Meta-analysis or subjective synthesis of appropriate studies was used to assess more than 25 potentially significant variables effecting RTS and re-tear.

Results: After initial search of 1503 studies, 47 articles were selected for inclusion in the final data analysis, including a total of 1432 patients (31.4% female, 68.6% male). A meta-analysis of re-tear rate for included Level of Evidence 1 studies was calculated to be 2.8%. Subgroups including protocols containing a strict time until RTS, strength testing, and ≥2 dynamic tests demonstrated decreased RTS and re-tear heterogeneity from the larger group. Time to RTS, strength testing, dynamic functional testing, and knee stability were also found to be among the most prevalent reported criteria in RTS protocol studies.

Conclusions: This study suggests a multifactorial clinical algorithm for successful evaluation of RTS. The "critical criteria" recommended by the authors to be part of the postoperative RTS criteria include time since surgery of 8 months, use of >2 functional tests, psychological readiness testing, and quadriceps/hamstring strength testing in addition to the modifying patient factors of age and female gender.

Level of evidence: Level IV, systematic review of Level I-IV studies.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries*
  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction* / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lacerations* / surgery
  • Male
  • Muscle Strength
  • Return to Sport / psychology
  • Rupture / surgery
  • Sports*