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This is the final published version from The Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 8(11), 2325967120962093

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Background: Meniscal tears are a common knee injury. Isolated meniscal tears are less common; however, unaddressed tears can be troublesome, particularly for athletes. There is currently a lack of data in the literature on athletes returning to play after isolated meniscal repair.

Purpose: To evaluate the return to play rate and time to return to play for athletes with isolated meniscal injuries.

Study Design: Systematic review; Level of evidence, 4.

Methods: A search of the PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane electronic databases was conducted to identify studies that reported the time and the rate of return to play in athletes after repair of isolated meniscal tears. Studies were excluded if there was a concomitant anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, if there was a meniscectomy instead of a meniscal repair, or if the study was a systematic review. Quality assessment and data extraction were performed by 2 examiners.

Results: Overall, 21 studies were included in this review. There were 355 athletes (358 knees) with a mean age of 22.5 years (range, 9-68 years). A sex breakdown was noted in 16 of the 21 (76.2%) studies with 224 men and 71 women. The specific repair technique was described in 259 (72.3%) knees. Of the total knees, 109 (30.4%) had an open repair, 128 (35.8%) had an inside-out arthroscopic technique repair, and 22 (6.1%) had an all-inside arthroscopic technique repair. Complications were addressed in 11 studies, with 13 out of 155 (8.4%) patients across the 11 articles having a postoperative complication. Of the total 355 patients, 295 (83.1%) returned to play, and 17 of these 21 (81.0%) articles reported the time it took for athletes to return to play, with a mean return of 8.7 months.

Conclusion: The study results indicate that return to play rates after isolated meniscal repair are high, with an overall return to play rate of 83.1% and a mean return to play time of 8.7 months. However, the limited number of studies, particularly ones with larger patient numbers, highlights the need for further investigation regarding isolated meniscal repair in athletes.

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