Context: Knee injuries are common during sport participation. However, little is known about the overall management and estimated direct cost of care associated with these injuries when under the care of athletic trainers.
Objective: To describe treatment characteristics and direct costs of care for athletic training services provided for patients with knee injuries.
Setting: Ninety-five athletic training facilities across 24 states.
Participants: One hundred and seventeen athletic trainers (female=56.4%, age=29.4±8.7 years, years certified=4.7±6.0, years employed at site=1.6±4.1).
Interventions: Complete patient cases were identified using ICD-10 diagnostic codes between 2009–2020.
Main Outcome Measures: Summary statistics were calculated for patient demographics, treatment characteristics, and direct costs of care. Treatment characteristics included type of athletic training service, duration, amount (eg, number of visits), and direct cost of care.
Results: Four hundred forty-one patient cases were included in this study. The most common injuries reported were cruciate ligament sprain (18.1%, n=80), medial collateral ligament sprain (15.4%, n=68), and knee pain (14.1%, n=62). Injuries occurred most frequently during football (35.4%, n=156), basketball (14.7%, n=65) and soccer (12.7%, n=56). A total of 8,484 athletic training services were recorded over 4,254 visits, with therapeutic exercise (29.8%, n=2,530), hot/cold pack (25.8%, n=2,189), and therapeutic activities (11.2%, n=954) being the most frequently reported services. The median duration of care was 23 days and number of visits was 8. The median total cost of care was $564 per injury and $73 per visit.
Conclusions: Knee injuries have demonstrated greater time-loss when compared to other lower extremity injuries. Thus, it is unsurprising that knee injuries are associated with higher duration of care and higher cost of care as compared to other lower extremity injuries such as ankle sprains. Future efforts should seek to understand the effectiveness of common treatment strategies and aim to identify treatments that can reduce costs and improve patient outcomes.