ISAKOS Congress 2021

2021 ISAKOS Biennial Congress Paper

 

Can Talented Youth Soccer Players Who Have Undergone Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction Reach the Elite Level?

Alexander Sandon, MD, Stockholm SWEDEN
Tor Söderström, Prof, Stockholm SWEDEN
Andreas Stenling, PhD, Umeå SWEDEN
Magnus Forssblad, MD, PhD, Stockholm SWEDEN

Karolinska Institutet, STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

FDA Status Not Applicable

Summary

ACL reconstructive surgery in talented youth soccer players offers them the opportunity to become elite players as seniors and permits an activity level on a par with that of their uninjured peers.

Abstract

Background

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ruptures are common in soccer players, and reconstructive surgery is often performed to restore knee stability and enable a return to play.

Purpose

To investigate whether an ACL reconstruction for talented youth soccer players affects their potential to become elite players at the senior level.

Study Design:
Cohort study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods

All soccer players who participated in the Swedish National Elite Camp for 15-year-old players between 2005 and 2011 (N = 5285 players; 2631 boys and 2654 girls) were matched with the Swedish National Knee Ligament Registry to identify the players who had undergone ACL reconstruction. Information on player participation in Swedish league games and level of play was collected from the Swedish Football Association’s administrative data system. The players with an ACL reconstruction who were injured at the ages of 15 to 19 years were compared with the rest of the players who participated in the National Elite Camp to see whether an early ACL reconstruction affected whether they remained active as soccer players and their chance to play at the elite level as seniors.

Results

A total of 524 (9.9%) players had undergone an ACL reconstruction, and 292 (5.5%; 75 male and 217 female) had sustained their injury at age 15 to 19 years. During the follow-up period, 122 (23.3%) players underwent further ACL reconstruction: revision (11.5%; n = 60) or contralateral (11.8%; n = 62). Male and female soccer players undergoing an ACL reconstruction at age 15 to 19 years experienced no significant effect on being active or playing at the elite level in the season that they turned 21 years old. Of the youth players who underwent ACL reconstruction, 12% of the male players and 11.5% of the female players progressed to the elite level at the age of 21 years compared with 10.3% of the men and 11.1% of the women among the uninjured players.

Conclusion

ACL reconstructive surgery in talented youth soccer players offers them the opportunity to become elite players as seniors and permits an activity level on a par with that of their uninjured peers. However, almost 1 in 4 requires further ACL surgery, so the players’ future knee health should be considered when deciding on a return to play.

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