Reconsideration of Return-to-Sport Decision-Making After Pediatric ACL Injury: A Scoping Review

Anne Hendrika Johanna Pauw, Tristan Marcel Frank Buck, Alli Gokeler, Igor Joeri Ramon Tak

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Up to 90% of pediatric athletes return to sport (RTS) after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction (ACL-R); however, <50% RTS at the same level and second ACL injury rates are up to 32%.
(1) Determine which physical and patient-reported outcome measures guide clinical decision-making on RTS in pediatric athletes after ACL-R and (2) present a framework with insights from cognitive and neurophysiological domains to enhance rehabilitation outcomes.
Data Sources:
PubMed, CINAHL, Embrase, and Cochrane library databases and gray literature.
Study Selection:
Data on pediatric (<18 years) ACL-R patients, RTS, tests, and decision-making were reported in 1214 studies. Two authors independently reviewed titles and abstract, excluding 962 studies. Gray literature and cross-reference checking resulted in 7 extra studies for full-text screening of 259 studies. Final data extraction was from 63 eligible studies.
Study Design:
Scoping review.
Level of Evidence:
Level 4.
Data Extraction:
Details on study population, aims, methodology, intervention, outcome measures, and important results were collected in a data chart.
Studies included 4456 patients (mean age, 14 years). Quadriceps and hamstring strength (n = 25), knee ligament arthrometer (n = 24), and hop tests (n = 22) were the most-reported physical outcome measures guiding RTS in <30% of studies with cutoff scores of limb symmetry index (LSI) ≥85% or arthrometer difference <3 mm. There were 19 different patient-reported outcome measures, most often reporting the International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) (n = 24), Lysholm (n = 23), and Tegner (n = 15) scales. Only for the IKDC was a cutoff value of 85% reported.
RTS clearance in pediatric ACL-R patients is not based on clear criteria. If RTS tests were performed, outcomes did not influence time of RTS. Postoperative LSI thresholds likely overestimate knee function since biomechanics are impaired despite achieving RTS criteria. RTS should be considered a continuum, and biomechanical parameters and contextual rehab should be pursued with attention to the individual, task, and environment. There is a need for psychological monitoring of the ACL-R pediatric population.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)898-907
JournalSports Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2023


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