In a series of papers recently published in the Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, in addition to published articles in Orthopedics and Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, orthopedic surgeons evaluated several major sports to determine the return to sport rate for athletes with an ACL tear. Joshua Harris, MD, co-authored the papers. For professional athletes in the NFL, NBA, Major League Soccer (MLS), NHL, and the X Games, Harris and his research team matched athletes with ACL tears to athletes without based on experience, age, and pre-tear performance.

These factors were explored to determine the return to sport rate for these athletes. In the NFL, the researchers evaluated quarterbacks with ACL tears, and for the NHL, athletes had a return to sport rate of 97%. This rate was the highest of all major sports leagues, according to the study. Quarterbacks have a return to sport rate of 92% and, on average, played for 5 years after returning from an ACL tear, which showed this injury is not career ending for quarterbacks.

In addition, the analysis showed that NBA athletes have a return to sport rate of 86%, with guards having the most difficult time returning to sport and centers having the most predictable outcomes. The results also indicate that MLS athletes tend to have more ACL tears in their left knee and also have a 77% chance of returning to play following this injury. For X Games athletes, the researchers specifically looked at skiers and snowboarders. Skiers had an 87% chance of returning to sport while snowboarders had a 70% return to sport rate.

Harris says, “There are nearly 250,000 ACL tears each year in the United States and that number is increasing. Research in causes, treatment, and recovery of ACL tears is important because it’s helping us better understand ways to prevent and treat these injuries.”

Harris adds, “While ACL tears are more common in athletes, this injury can happen to anyone. Researching ACL tears in athletes helps all of our patients because we are able to evaluate treatments and bring the best solutions back to our practice and get our patients back to their favorite sport or hobby.”

Source: Houston Methodist