Female Athletes With Better Psychological Readiness Are at Higher Risk for Second ACL Injury After Primary ACL Reconstruction

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Sports Health

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DOI: 10.1177/19417381231155120


Background: Approximately 1 in 4 athletes returning to sports will sustain a second anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. Psychological factors related to kinesiophobia, confidence, and psychological readiness are associated with second ACL injury; however, the evidence is conflicting.

Hypothesis: Athletes who sustain a second ACL injury (ie, graft rupture or contralateral ACL rupture) within 2 years of ACL reconstruction (ACLR) would have greater kinesiophobia, less confidence, and lower psychological readiness prior to return to sport (RTS) compared with athletes who do not sustain a second ACL injury.

Study Design: Secondary analysis of a prospective randomized trial.

Level of Evidence: Level 3.

Methods: A total of 39 female Level I/II athletes completed the following measures after postoperative rehabilitation and a 10-session RTS and second ACL injury prevention program: ACL Return to Sport after Injury (ACL-RSI) scale, the 11-item Tampa Scale of Kinesiophobia (TSK-11), and question 3 on the Knee injury and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) quality of life (QoL) subscale. Athletes were dichotomized based on whether they sustained a second ACL injury within 2 years of ACLR or not. Independent t tests determined group differences in TSK-11, KOOS-QoL, ACL-RSI, and the 3 individual components of the ACL-RSI (ie, emotions, confidence, risk appraisal).

Results: Nine athletes sustained a second ACL injury (4 graft ruptures and 5 contralateral ACL ruptures). The group that sustained a second ACL injury had higher scores on the ACL-RSI (P = 0.03), higher on the risk appraisal questions of the ACL-RSI (P < 0.01), and met RTS criteria sooner than athletes who did not (P = 0.04). All second ACL injuries occurred in athletes who underwent primary ACLR with hamstring tendon autografts.

Conclusion: Athletes who sustained a second ACL within 2 years of ACLR had a more positive psychological outlook, higher scores on the specific questions related to the risk appraisal construct of the ACL-RSI, and met RTS criteria sooner than athletes who did not sustain a second ACL injury.

Clinical Relevance: Counseling athletes about delaying RTS to reduce the risk of second ACL injury may be especially important in athletes who display high psychological readiness and meet RTS criteria sooner.


Sports Health, Vol. 16, No. 1 (January/February 2024): 149-154. DOI.