Returning to their preinjury level of sport is often anticipated within 1 year after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction, yet up to two-thirds of athletes may not have achieved this milestone. The subsequent sports participation outcomes of athletes who have not returned to their preinjury level sport by 1 year following surgery have not previously been investigated. A group of 122 competitive- and recreational-level athletes who had not returned to their preinjury level sport at 1 year after ACL reconstruction participated. Ninety-one percent of the athletes returned to some form of sport following surgery. At 2 years after surgery, 66% were playing sport, with 41% playing their preinjury level of sport and 25% playing a lower level of sport. Having a previous ACL reconstruction to either knee, poorer hop-test symmetry and subjective knee function, and a greater number of negative psychological responses were associated with not playing the preinjury level sport at 2 years.
The majority of athletes who were not playing sport at 1 year had returned to some form of sport within 2 years after ACL reconstruction, which may suggest that athletes can take longer than the clinically expected time of 1 year to return to sport. However, only 2 of every 5 athletes were playing their preinjury level of sport at 2 years post surgery. When the results of the current study were combined with the results of athletes who had returned to sport at 1 year, the overall rate of return to the preinjury level sport at 2 years was 60%. Demographics, physical function, and psychological factors were related to playing the preinjury level sport at 2 years after surgery, supporting the notion that returning to sport after surgery is multifactorial.