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How Does ACL Surgery Affect Return to Sport?

A recent study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine performed a systematic review and meta analysis of return-to-sport following ACL reconstruction. The study examined a total of 69 articles, totaling 7,556 patients, that recorded data on return to sport after ACL surgery between April 2010 to November 2013. The results of the study revealed staggering statistics about the drastic effects of ACL repair on athletic performance and return to sport.

The good news, is that approximately 81% of patients were able to return to some kind of sport following ACL surgery, albeit maybe not their original sport. However, only 65% were able to return to pre-injury athletic levels, while a mere 55% of patients were able to return to a competitive level of sport after surgery. The meta analysis also revealed several factors that increased the likelihood of returning to pre-injury levels. The study showed younger age, male sex, and a positive psychological outlooks favored return to pre-injury levels. In addition, elite athletes were 6 times more likely to return to competitive levels than non-elite athletes.

Orthopedics this Week quoted the lead researcher of the study, Clare Arden Ph.D., “I think we used to presume that everyone returned to their sport after surgery, especially since one of the main reasons why people have surgery is because they want to return to sport. But clearly these results show that this is not the case.”

The meta-analysis illustrates the magnitude of ACL surgery on return to sport and peak performance. Although surgery may be the best option in many cases, the study shows that jumping immediately to the O.R. may not always be the best choice if you want to come back as your old self on the pitch. It is important for athletes and weekend warriors alike to consider the Pros and Cons of surgery and decide whether surgical reconstruction or a more conservative route is most applicable.

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