Professional athletes are at increased risk of injury with high activity levels and additional pressure to return to sports quickly after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. The purpose of this study was to determine ACL graft re-tear rates in National Basketball Association (NBA), Major League Baseball (MLB), and National Hockey League (NHL) athletes using publicly available databases and to compare these to general populations, National Football League (NFL) athletes, and the pediatric population to establish a baseline for those partaking in high-risk sporting activity.
A comprehensive online search was performed to identify athletes in the NBA, MLB, and NHL who had a reported ACL tear between 2007 and 2017. For each tear, the type of tear (initial or re-tear) and return to play data were documented. Comparisons of re-tear rates from these leagues to prior registry, meta-analyses, and epidemiologic studies were performed using Fisher’s exact or Chi-squared tests.
The aggregate re-tear rate was 11.9%. ACL re-tear rates by league did not statistically differ. Return to play rate after index surgery was 95.8%, whereas after a revision procedure was 92.3%. There was a statistically significant difference between the studied ACL re-tear rates (NBA, MLB, NHL) and those of national registries (P < 0.01), and no difference when compared with the pediatric population or with the NFL.
Exposure to higher-risk sporting activity, common to pediatric patients and professional athletes, is a likely major influential factor in ACL re-tear.
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