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Who passes return-to-sport tests, and which tests are most strongly associated with return to play after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction?
© The Author(s) 2020. Background: Return-to-sport (RTS) testing after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction (ACLR) surgery has become popular. It has been recommended that such testing should incorporate several domains, or set of tests, but it is unclear which are most associated with a successful RTS. Purpose: To determine (1) the proportion of patients who can pass a set of self-report and functional tests at 6 months after ACLR; (2) age, sex, and activity level differences between patients who pass and those who do not; and (3) whether specific types of tests are associated with a return to competitive sport at 12 months. Study Design: Cohort study; Level of evidence, 2. Methods: This was a prospective longitudinal study of 450 patients who had primary ACLR. At 6 months postoperatively, patients completed 2 self-report measures, the International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) subjective knee form and ACL–Return to Sport after Injury (ACL-RSI) scale, and 3 functional measures: single hop and triple crossover hop for distance and isokinetic quadriceps strength. Limb symmetry index scores of ≥90 for functional tests, IKDC scores ≥85, and ACL-RSI scores ≥65 were considered indicators of satisfactory recovery. Proportional statistics and contingency analysis were used to determine associations between age, sex, preinjury sports level, and (1) meeting test thresholds and (2) RTS at 12 months. Results: Only 17 (3.8%) patients met all 5 test criteria at 6 months, and 95 (21%) patients did not pass any test. More of the younger patients (<21 years) passed all of the functional tests (P <.01), and more male patients met the IKDC threshold (P =.03). Patients who played level I sports before injury had the same pass rates as those who played level II/III sports. Patients who passed the thresholds for the ACL-RSI and IKDC scales had 4 and 3 times the odds, respectively, of RTS at 12 months (both P <.0001). Meeting the threshold for quadriceps strength or either of the hop tests at 6 months was not associated with RTS. Conclusion: At 6 months after ACLR, few patients met all of the thresholds of the common tests used to assess RTS ability, although younger patients had higher rates of passing the functional tests. Self-perceived symptoms/function and psychological readiness were associated with a return at 12 months.