Functional outcomes and return to sport following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction in recreational athletes: a systematic review

Filip Brzeszczyński, Kirsten Turnbull, Colin McLelland, Donnie MacDonald, Graham Lawson, David Hamilton*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Outcomes of anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACLR) are well reported in athletic populations, however surprisingly little information is available for the recreational athletes that make up the majority of cases. The aim was therefore to assess post-operative outcome and return-to-sport in recreational athletes following ACLR.

Methods: A systematic search was conducted in Ovid MEDLINE, CINAHL, AMED and the grey literature according to PRISMA guidelines. Studies involving a clear definition of recreational athletes who underwent ACLR and recorded postoperative outcomes were included. Publication quality was assessed using Newcastle-Ottawa Scale.

Results: 107 studies were identified, 19 full-text records reviewed and 13 included, reflecting 1342 patients with an average age of 31.7 (SD 9.8) years. Mean follow-up was 43.6 (SD 42.8) months. Activity change post-surgery was reported in 92% (12/13) papers. Outcomes were assessed with the Tegner score in seven studies, four of which reported pre-injury scores, which worsened from 5.4 to 4.3 at final follow-up (76.5 months). 54% (7/13) studies reported return to pre-injury level of sport. In these, 59% (n = 327/555) achieved pre-injury level at a mean follow-up of 33.7 months (SD 38.6). The return-to-sports rate increased with length of follow-up. Methodological quality was moderate.

Conclusion: Substantial variation in the timeframes and outcomes assessed restricts pooled analysis of change in function. Based on seven studies, 59% of recreational athletes return to pre-injury level of sport following ACLR. The link between return rate and post-operative review timeframe suggests that longer follow-up may be required to capture return-to-sport rates in this population.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-113
Number of pages11
JournalThe Knee
Early online date13 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022


  • ACL reconstruction
  • outcomes
  • recreational athlete
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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