Return to sport (RTS) after anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction in children is associated with a much higher risk (∼30%) of subsequent ACL injury than in adults. Most RTS testing protocols use a limb symmetry index (LSI) ≥90% on physical performance tests (PPTs) to assess an athlete's readiness for sport. This assumes that, in a healthy state, the physical performances across both lower extremities are and should be equal.
To determine the prevalence of limb asymmetries >10% in the uninjured pediatric population on common PPTs as well as to explore the relationship between athlete variables, limb preference, and LSI values.
Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.
This study included healthy volunteers (N = 100) evenly distributed between the ages of 6 and 18 years (mean age, 11.7 ± 3.6 years; 52% female). Participants performed 9 common PPTs. For analysis, we developed a composite score for each limb by averaging trials. We then calculated the LSI for each test. Univariable and multivariable linear regression analyses were performed to assess the relationship between athlete variables (age, sex, height, and weight) and LSI for each PPT.
Instances of poor baseline limb symmetry (<90% LSI) were common across all PPTs. The single-leg timed hop had the highest percentage of participants, with LSI ≥90% at 73%, while the stork on a Bosu ball had the lowest percentage at 23%. After adjusting for age, female sex showed a significant association with LSI for the stork test (P
= .010) and the quadrant hop-counterclockwise (P
= .021). Additionally, after adjusting for sex, increasing age showed a significant association with LSI for the stork test (P
< .001), single-leg squat on a Bosu ball (P
= .010), quadrant hop-clockwise (P
= .016), and quadrant hop-counterclockwise (P
The majority of healthy athletes 18 years and younger demonstrated significant (<90%) limb asymmetries. Limb symmetry was not consistently affected by participant age or sex, and the effect sizes of these relationships were small. These findings should encourage clinicians and coaches to exercise caution in using the LSI as an isolated measure of RTS readiness after injury in pediatric athletes.