Original Article| Volume 39, ISSUE 4, P1028-1034, April 2023

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Athletes and Nonathletes Show No Difference in Symptoms or Function Prior to Knee Surgery, but Those With Chronic Symptoms Show Increased Pain Catastrophizing and Kinesiophobia

Published:December 07, 2022DOI:



      To determine whether preoperative psychological status before outpatient knee surgery is influenced by athletic status, symptom chronicity, or prior surgical history.


      International Knee Documentation Committee subjective scores (IKDC-S), Tegner Activity Scale scores, and Marx Activity Rating Scale scores were collected. Psychological and pain surveys included the McGill pain scale, Pain Catastrophizing Scale, Tampa Scale for Kinesiophobia 11, Patient Health Questionnaire 9, Perceived Stress Scale, New General Self-Efficacy Scale, and Life Orientation Test–Revised for optimism. Linear regression was used to determine the effects of athlete status, symptom chronicity (>6 months or ≤6 months), and history of prior surgery on preoperative knee function, pain, and psychological status after matching for age, sex, and surgical procedure.


      In total, 497 knee surgery patients (247 athletes, 250 nonathletes) completed a preoperative electronic survey. All patients were age 14 years and older and had knee pathology requiring surgical treatment. Athletes were younger than nonathletes on average (mean [SD], 27.7 [11.4] vs 41.6 [13.5] years; P < .001). The most frequently reported level of play among athletes was intramural or recreational (n = 110, 44.5%). Athletes had higher preoperative IKDC-S scores (mean [SE], 2.5 [1.0] points higher; P = .015) and lower McGill pain scores compared to nonathletes (mean [SE] 2.0 [0.85] points lower; P = .017). After matching for age, sex, athlete status, prior surgery, and procedure type, having chronic symptoms resulted in higher preoperative IKDC-S (P < .001), pain catastrophizing (P < .001), and kinesiophobia scores (P = .044).


      Athletes demonstrate no difference in symptom/pain and function scores preoperatively when compared to nonathletes of similar age, sex, and knee pathology, as well as no difference in multiple psychological distress outcomes measures. Patients with chronic symptoms have more pain catastrophizing and kinesiophobia, while those who have had prior knee surgeries have slightly higher preoperative McGill pain score.

      Level of Evidence

      Level III, cross-sectional analysis of prospective cohort study data.
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