Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research ®

A Publication of The Association of Bone and Joint Surgeons ®

Younger Patients and Men Achieve Higher Outcome Scores Than Older Patients and Women After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction

Kate E. Webster PhD, Julian A. Feller FRACS



There is some evidence that functional performance and validated outcome scores differ according to the gender, age, and sport participation status of a patient after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction. However, the impact of these three factors, and interaction among them, has not been studied across a large relatively homogeneous group of patients to better elucidate their impact.


We reviewed a large cohort of patients who had undergone ACL reconstruction to determine if ROM, knee laxity, objective performance measures, and validated outcome scores differed according to (1) gender; (2) age; and (3) sport participation status.


This was a retrospective analysis of prospectively collected data. Between 2007 and 2016, we performed 3452 single-bundle ACL reconstructions in patients who participated in sport before ACL injury. Of those, complete followup (including preoperative scores and scores at 1 year after surgery; mean, 14 months; range, 12–20 months) was available on 2672 (77%) of patients. Those lost to followup and those accounted for were not different in terms of age, gender, and sports participation at baseline. The study group consisted of 1726 (65%) men and 946 (35%) women with a mean ± SD age of 28 ± 10 years. For these patients, the following measures were obtained: knee ROM (flexion and extension deficit), instrumented knee laxity, single and triple hop for distance limb symmetry index (LSI), International Knee Documentation Committee (IKDC) subjective evaluation, and Single Assessment Numeric Evaluation score. Mean scores and measures of variability were calculated for each outcome measure. Comparisons were made among gender, age, and sport status.


Men had less knee laxity after reconstruction (men 1.1 ± 2.2 mm, women 1.3 ± 2.4 mm; mean difference 0.2 mm [0.1–0.4], p < 0.001), greater limb symmetry (single limb hop men: 94% ± 12%, women 91% ± 13%, mean difference 3% [2%–4%], p < 0.001), and higher IKDC scores than did women (men 84 ± 12, women 82 ± 12, mean difference 2 [1–3], p < 0.001). With the exception of instrumented laxity, all outcome measures showed reduced deficits and higher scores in younger patients. This was most marked for LSI scores between the youngest and oldest aged patient groups (crossover hop: < 16 years 99% ± 10%, > 45 years 90% ± 16%, mean difference: 9 [5–11], p < 0.001). Patients who had returned to their preinjury sport also scored higher and had smaller deficits for all outcomes except ROM compared with patients who had not returned to sport at the time of followup (IKDC subjective: returned 90 ± 9, no sport 79 ± 12, mean difference 11 points [9–12], p < 0.001; single limb hop: returned 97 ± 10, no sport 91 ± 14, mean difference 6% [5%–7%], p < 0.001).


This study showed that some of the most commonly used functional performance and validated clinical scores for ACL reconstruction are superior for patients who are younger, male, and have returned to preinjury sport. Reference to these data allows clinicians to more effectively evaluate a patient based on their age, gender, and sport status when making return to sport and rehabilitation decisions.

Level of Evidence

Level III, therapeutic study.

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