Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) ruptures are considered high burden injuries in sports with high pivotal activity, especially for professional footballers. A lack of evidence exists about long-term follow up of professional elite athletes who underwent ACL reconstruction. The purpose of the study is to analyze the return to play and the career of professional footballers who underwent ACL reconstruction with hamstrings, to evaluate re-rupture and reoperation at either indexed and contralateral knee, and to assess the long-term clinical subjective outcomes and satisfaction.
Twenty-eight professional footballers that underwent 33 ACL reconstructions were retrospectively included in the study. All surgical interventions were performed using hamstring tendons graft and an over the top technique. Inclusion criteria were: inability to compete due to joint instability caused by total or subtotal ACL lesion, patients contracted to a professional football team at time of surgery. Exclusion criteria were: multi-ligament reconstruction or concomitant meniscal allograft transplantation. Patients were contacted by phone and a brief questionnaire about surgery was administered. Subsequently, a Lysholm knee scoring scale was obtained. After that, an online research was performed on publicly available websites in order to retrieve information of the patients included after surgery.
In all cases, ACL Reconstruction was performed with hamstring tendons using a non-anatomic Double-Bundle technique in 16 cases (49%), an Over-The-Top Single-Bundle technique in 9 cases (27%), and an Over-The-Top Single- Bundle plus Lateral Plasty technique in 8 cases (24%); moreover, a meniscal lesion was present in 20 cases (61%). Three (9%) of the 33 ACL reconstruction failed (2/16 Double-Bundle, 1/9 Single- Bundle, 0/8 Single-Bundle + Lateral Plasty; p = n.s.), with two of them within 12 months from surgery. Other procedures, mainly arthroscopic meniscectomies, were performed in 10 cases (30%). The first official match was played after an average of 8.0 ± 3.6 (4.6-18.2) months in 31 cases (94%). Patients were evaluated after 12.6 ± 3.3 years (6.7-17.5) from the indexed ACL reconstruction. The average Lysholm score was 94.2 ± 8.3.
Discussion And Conclusion
In our small case-series, professional soccer players were able to return to play at a competitive level with a hamstrings over the top technique. Patients with long careers had a high percentage of reoperation on the contralateral knee.