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Development and Evaluation of an Activity Rating Scale for Disorders of the Knee

Development and Evaluation of an Activity Rating Scale for Disorders of the Knee - Clinical Hub, UW Health Clinical Tool Search, UW Health Clinical Tool Search, Questionnaires, Related


0363-5465/10112929-0213$02.00/0
THE AMERICAN JOURNAL OF SPORTS MEDICINE, Vol. 29, No.2
' 2001 American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine
Development and Evaluation of an Activity
Rating Scale for Disorders of the Knee
Robert G. Marx,*t MD, Timothy J. Stump,:t:§ MS, PT, Edward C. Jones,* MD,
Thomas L. Wickiewicz,* MD, and Russell F. Warren,* MD
From the *Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service .and tDepart,ment of Rehabilita~ion, Hospital
for Special Surgery, New York, and §Pro Fit Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy,
New York, New York
ABSTRACT
Reports of clinical studies of patients with knee disor›
ders should routinely include their activity levels to
enable comparison of treatment groups and to allow
generalizability. The goal of this study was to develop
and evaluate a new rating scale to measure activity
levels of patients. We assessed reliability by adminis›
tering the scale to 40 subjects on 2 separate occa›
sions, 1 week apart. Validity was evaluated by com›
paring the activity rating on the new scale with that
from other instruments that use activity level scales
(concurrent construct validity) and also by correlating
the score on the new scale with age (divergent validi›
ty). Patients easily understood the scale and were able
to complete it in 1 minute. The reliability was high
(intraclass correlation coefficient, 0.97). The scale also
correlated well with existing activity rating scales:
Spearman correlation coefficient for Cincinnati score,
0.67; for Tegner scale, 0.66; for Daniel scale, 0.52. The
activity score was significantly inversely correlated with
age (P = 0.002), indicating divergent validity. This
instrument will facilitate generalizability of results and
allow more accurate comparisons among patient
groups in outcomes research in sports medicine.
The number of outcome rating scales to measure patient
function has recently increased. Questionnaires have been
used with increasing frequency to better measure issues
that are important to patients.9.20.21,24,42 For example,
the Lysholm knee rating scale has been used to evaluate
patients after ACL reconstruction.
24
This instrument asks
t Address correspondence and reprint requests to Robert G. Marx. MD.
Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service. Hospital for Special Surgery, 535 East
70th Street, New York, NY 10021.
No author or related institution has received any financial benefit from
research in this study.
213
these patients about issues that are specifically relevant
to them, such as giving way, pain, locking of the knee, and
ability to run,24 Among patients who are very active or
who participate in high-demand activities, the level of
symptoms and disability of the patient must be evaluated
in the context of their activity level.
13
,28,40 Most studies
reporting on outcomes in athletes with disorders of the
knee do not directly report the level of activity of the
patients studied. 2,7,11,22,26,29,34-36.38
A prognostic factor is a patient variable or characteristic
that is associated with a good or bad outcome. For exam›
ple, lack of full range of motion before reconstruction for
an acute ACL rupture is a negative prognostic factor, as
this has been associated with arthrofibrosis.
27
Similarly,
in a study of two treatments for chronic lung disease, the
number of smokers receiving each treatment would be
considered extremely important because it is known that
smoking has an important effect on lung disease. 15 Activ›
ity levels of patients are important prognostic factors in
the sports medicine population because patients who are
very active have different expectations and demands than
patients who are relatively sedentary.5.31
There are large variations among patients in terms of
the frequency and intensity of sports participation. There›
fore, a rating of activity is critical for studies comparing
two treatments to ensure that the patient groups are
equivalent with respect to this characteristic.
3
For exam›
ple, if an investigator compared the semitendinosus and
gracilis tendon graft with the bone-patellar tendon-bone
graft for ACL reconstruction, it would be important for the
activity levels of the two groups to be similar. If the pa›
tients receiving the semitendinosus and gracilis tendon
grafts were relatively sedentary, whereas the patients
receiving the bone-patellar tendon-bone grafts were ex›
tremely active, the investigator would then effectively be
comparing apples and oranges.
Although the age and sex of the patients studied are
generally reported, these variables do not relate directly to
the patients’ activity levels. It is important to know

214 Marx et al.
whether the patients studied in the evaluation of a treat›
ment (such as a technique for knee ligament reconstruc›
tion) are placing high loads across their knee or if they are
relatively sedentary. A recent study of autologous chon›
drocyte transplantation
lO
received criticism in the form of
an editorial in a leading orthopaedic journal
33
for not
describing the activity levels ofthe patients, which limited
generalizability.
The purpose of this study was to develop a rating scale
for patients’ activity levels. The goal was to construct a
scale that is self-administered, able to be completed in
approximately 1 minute (to facilitate use with other in›
struments), and that is not based on specific sports (to
allow for comparisons of patients who participate in dif›
ferent sports).
MATERIALS AND METHODS
To locate activity rating scales that would be useful for
knee-related outcome research, we performed a formal
literature search using Medline (1966 to 1999). We used
the following search strategy: activity (key word) and
sports/sports medicine (key word) and scale (key word,
"exploded") or questionnaire (key word). We also polled
experts in the field of sports medicine and used the refer›
ences of relevant articles to search for activity rating
scales. We evaluated all relevant scales systematically
with respect to the purpose, the methods used for devel›
opment, and the reliability and validity.
To construct the new activity level rating scale we per›
formed item generation, item reduction, and subsequently
tested the instrument for reliability and validity. 18. 19 The
instrument was intended to be discriminative, that is, to
differentiate among patients at a point in time. Changes
in activity level (what the patient is doing) mayor may not
reflect changes in health status (how the patient is doing).
This instrument was not intended to measure the outcome
of medical or surgical interventions, which would be better
accomplished by a joint-specific or condition-specific
instrument.
24
Methods for Item Generation
To identify all potentially relevant items, we consulted
with orthopaedic surgeons who specialize in sports medi›
cine, as well as physical therapists and athletic trainers
who specialize in sports medicine. We also surveyed 20
patients with disorders of the knee for items they consid›
ered relevant.
Methods for Item Reduction
A total of approximately four items or questions was de›
sired to facilitate completion in a I-minute period, because
completing information forms, knee-specific scales, and
generic health status measures can be extremely onerous
and time consuming for patients. We asked 50 patients
18
with knee complaints who were physically active (Tegner
score of at least 4) to rate the importance of each function
identified in item generation and the difficulty they had
American Journal of Sports Medicine
with each on a scale from 1 to 10. We chose to study
patients with a variety of disorders of the knee to improve
generalizability. The importance and severity scores for
each activity were added,25 and we selected the items with
the highest mean importance-severity scores. Therefore,
we included the items that patients considered the most
important and most difficult to physically perform. It is
crucial to have items that are both important to patients
and difficult for them so that the scale will be clinically
relevant for the sports medicine population. If an item is
very important but not difficult for the patient, or the
converse, that item is not as useful as one that is both
important and physically difficult. The goal was to reduce
the number of items to approximately four to avoid re›
sponder burden, as the instrument is intended for use
with both disease-specific and generic health status
measures.
Clinical sensibility, which involves the opinion of clini›
cians with expertise in the domain under study,!7 was
employed to ensure that the instrument was relevant to
practitioners as well. Therefore, the final selection of the
items was based both on the patient data and the opinion
of the clinicians.
17
Methods for Reliability Testing
For test-retest reliability a sample size of 40 volunteers
was required.
16
We retested the subjects after a I-week
interval.
8
,14 The subjects were professionals in fields
other than health care, 18 to 50 years of age, who were
healthy and not involved in the study design or execution.
Patients were not shown their previous responses. The
intraclass correlation coefficient was used to measure
reliability.
3
Methods for Validity Testing
Criterion validity could not be assessed because there is
no accepted standard for the concept of activity level. Face
and content validity were assured by the expert input of
the physicians, physical therapists, and trainers consulted
in the development of the scale. Construct validity was
evaluated by comparing the score on the new instrument
with those of other activity rating scales (Tegner,40 Cin›
cinnati,28 and DanieI
13
). We anticipated positive correla›
tions with these scales that also purport to measure ac›
tivity levels of patients. For divergent validity, the new
scale was correlated with patient age, and an inverse
correlation was anticipated, with older patients expected
to have lower activity scores. A cross-sectional analysis
was performed to correlate age with activity level. Older
patients were expected to have lower activity scores. The
Spearman correlation coefficient was used for all correla›
tions because the scales are considered ordinal data.
RESULTS
Literature Review
Many scales that quantify physical activity have been
devised for epidemiologic studies.
1
,4,12,23.32,43 These

Vol. 29, No.2, 2001
scales generally evaluate the amount of time the subjects
spend participating in physical activity, without defining
the specific level of activity in detail. These instruments
are not useful for sports medicine studies as they lack
specificity.
We identified five activity level rating scales that are
potentially applicable to outcome studies in sports medi›
cine, but there are inherent problems with each of these
available instruments. Straub and Hunter39 published an
activity rating scale along with a study of acute ACL
repair. Five categories of sports were listed based on the
stress level that each sport was perceived to place on
the ACL repair. There was no mention of patient input
in the description of the development of this scale. Fur›
ther, the difference between some ofthe activities listed is
not intuitively obvious. For example, the authors differen›
tiate between light and hard dance by scoring them as one
and three of five, respectively. The authors also rated
basketball as five, whereas racquetball was rated as three.
These differences in activity rating appear to be somewhat
arbitrary since quick stops and starts and aggressive piv›
oting characterize both sports.
Seto et al.
37
used a rating of patient activity for their
follow-up study of patients with ACL reconstruction. They
defined three levels of activity, termed "competitive," "rec›
reational," and "weekend." Competitive was defined as
organized competition or participation in a sports activity
six or seven times per week. Recreational was defined as
participation in a sports activity three to five times per
week or two times per week and more than 2 hours per
session or seasonal sports five or more times per month.
Weekend was defined as participation in a sports activity
two or less times per week with each session lasting ap›
proximately an hour, or participation in seasonal sports
an average of 4 or less days per month. There was no
mention of how the authors arrived at this scale. The type
of sport is not mentioned, which could lead to potential
misclassifications (for example, a "competitive" bowler
would be rated higher than a subject who plays "recre›
ational" tennis four times a week).
The Tegner activity level rating scale is perhaps the
most widely used.
40
The purpose of this scale is to docu›
ment activity levels of ACL-insufficient patients because
it was thought that limitations in knee function could be
masked in sedentary patients. The development of this
rating scale involved a survey of 43 patients with ACL
injuries who were asked to grade activities as to how
troublesome they were to perform. Generalizability to
other diagnoses is limited since all the subjects involved in
the development of the scale had ACL injuries. Further›
more, the arbitrariness of ranking different sports in
terms of activity level remains. Contrary to the Straub
and Hunter scale, the Tegner scale ranks squash (a sport
similar to racquetball) ahead of basketball. The Tegner
scale also discriminated between competitive and recre›
ational sports, a differentiation that can often be difficult
to make.
40
We are not aware of any studies documenting
the reliability or validity of this instrument.
The Cincinnati scale describes the actual activities in›
volved in sport.
28
The methods used to arrive at the final
Activity Rating Scale for the Knee 215
instrument are not detailed. This scale lumps together
jumping, hard pivoting, and cutting to distinguish sports
that involve these activities from sports that involve "no
running, twisting, or jumping." This instrument was one
of only two scales that took the frequency of activity into
account, which is important to differentiate among sub›
jects. However, this scale rated subjects who participated
in sports with no running, twisting, or jumping four to
seven times per week at 90 points, while patients who
participated in jumping, hard pivoting, or cutting sports
one to three times per week were rated as 85. One could
argue that the cutting sports one to three times per week
would place much greater demands on the knee than the
less-demanding sports at a slightly greater frequency. A
recent study found the Cincinnati scale to be reliable and
valid.
6
Daniel et al. 13 defined three levels of sport to stratify
subjects in their report describing the outcome of ACL›
injured patients. Level one sports were described as jump›
ing, pivoting, and hard cutting sports. However, as with
the Cincinnati scale, the fact that these components of
function were grouped together can be confusing because
some patients may participate in sports that require piv›
oting or jumping or both, but not cutting. Level two sports
were considered sports that involve lateral motion, but
with less jumping or hard cutting than level one, again
indicating a certain level of arbitrariness. Level three was
described as other sports, listing jogging, running, and
swimming as examples. Frequency of activity was not
taken into account and the methods used to derive the
scale were not mentioned.
A Rationale for Measuring Activity Levels
Multi-item scales involve addition of the scores of each
individual item to form the final score.
41
Alternatively, the
Gutman method
30
involves a hierarchical arrangement in
which any single item subsumes those below it, as in the
Tegner scale.
40
Although Gutman scales are intuitively
attractive for their simplicity, there are limitations in
their validity when applied to rating patient activity lev›
els. Ranking of sports on Gutman scales becomes some›
what arbitrary.
By asking patients what sports they play, the investi›
gator may not be asking each patient the same question
because the activity level for a given sport varies among
individual players.
4o
For example, playing in a game of
basketball involves jumping, running, and cutting. How›
ever, patients can consider themselves to be "playing bas›
ketball" if they are practicing shots on their own without
placing high loads across the knee. The differentiation
between recreational and competitive sports can also be
unclear. A subject can be very active and place high de›
mands on his or her knee at a low level of "competition" for
a given sport.
Various cultural groups play different sports. Although
the sport "bandy" (which is popular in Sweden but is not
known to most North Americans) is listed in the Tegner
activity rating scale, baseball is not mentioned.
40
Omis›
sions such as this may lead to serious misclassifications.

216 Marx et al.
For these reasons, it may be advantageous to measure
specific components of function, such as jumping or run›
ning, which may allow more accurate comparisons among
patients. By identifying the common threads of sporting
movements that apply universally to the lower limb, the
pitfall associated with a comparison of specific sports can
be averted.
Results of Item Generation and Item Reduction
Item generation was performed by interviewing 10 ortho›
paedic surgeons who specialize in sports medicine, 5 phys›
ical therapists and athletic trainers who specialize in
sports medicine, and 20 athletic patients with disorders of
the knee. Nine relevant items were identified: getting out
of a low chair, going up stairs, going down stairs, running,
cutting, pivoting, jumping, decelerating, and doing a deep
knee bend or a squat.
Fifty patients (27 men and 23 women), with a mean age
of 32.8 years (range, 12 to 57), were interviewed for item
reduction. Twenty-three of these patients had ACL inju›
ries, nine had meniscal tears, seven had patellofemoral
pain, three had osteochondritis dissecans, two had medial
collateral ligament injuries, two had patellar tendinitis,
and one each had iliotibial band syndrome, PCL injury,
tibial plateau fracture, and a chondral defect. The top four
items rated by importance and severity were running,
cutting, decelerating, and pivoting (Table 1). The results
of this analysis were similar for patients with the three
most common diagnoses. The four top items were selected
for the scale because the goal was an instrument com›
posed of approximately four items that were clinically
relevant. We elected not to remove or add further items
based on clinical sensibility.17 For example, although pa›
tients rated going up stairs extremely important, this item
was not very problematic for the patients and we elected
not to include it.
To arrive at a questionnaire that was easily understood,
we reviewed the questionnaire format with 25 athletic
patients with knee disorders. After each administration
we modified the introduction of the questionnaire, the
definition of each item, and the number of response cate›
gories, as required for comprehension. In the final version,
we included five choices for frequency of each functional
component of activity (see "Appendix").
If an interviewer were to administer the questionnaire,
American Journal of Sports Medicine
it would likely facilitate comprehension; however, this
would complicate data collection significantly. We elected
to use a self-administered format to allow administration
along with other questionnaires in the office setting.
Therefore, the introductory sentence is particularly im›
portant to ensure that the patients understand the ques›
tions. The font size of the instructions at the top of the
form (20 point) is much larger than the rest ofthe wording
in the questionnaire (12 point). In addition, part of the
introduction is printed in bold to further emphasize its
importance. This led patients to focus on the instructions
and respond appropriately to the questions (see
"Appendix").
In general, specific sports were not used as examples, to
focus on the patients’ actual activity rather than partici›
pation in a sport. Pivoting was particularly difficult to
define for patients and therefore we used several exam›
ples of sports that involve pivoting to aid comprehension.
The items were weighted equally, and one point was allo›
cated for each category of frequency, starting with "one
time in a month." For example, if a patient responded "less
than one time in a month" for one of the items, they were
accorded zero points for that item; "one time in a month,"
one point; "one time in a week," two points; and so on.
There are four items so the maximum score is 16 (if they
answer "four or more times in a week" for all four) and the
minimum score is zero. The median baseline score of the
40 subjects tested for the reliability and validity testing
was 7.0 and the range was 0 to 16 (Fig. 1).
Results of Reliability and Validity Testing
The responses of 40 volunteers (27 men and 13 women),
with a mean age of 33.7 years (range, 18 to 50), were
studied for the reliability and validity testing. Twenty›
eight of the volunteers participated in sports on a regular
basis. Of these, the most common sports were baseball or
softball (six subjects), basketball (five subjects), and ten›
nis (three subjects). The test-retest reliability at 1 week
was excellent (intraclass correlation coefficient [ICC] =
0.97). The scale was significantly correlated (P < 0.05)
with all of the activity rating scales studied (Tegner scale,
r = 0.66; Cincinnati scale, r = 0.67; Daniel scale, r = 0.52).
When all four scales were correlated with each other, the
new scale had the highest correlation with both the Cin›
cinnati and Tegner scale and the second highest correla-
TABLE 1
Item Reduction by Determining Mean (Range) Importance and Severity Scores for the Nine Activities from Item Generation
Activity
Running
Cutting
Decelerating
Pivoting
Squatting
Going downstairs
Jumping
Going upstairs
Getting up from a low chair
Mean importance
score (possible range,
1-10)
9.0 (5-10)
7.9 (1-10)
8.1 (2-10)
8.6 (2-10)
8.9 (5-10)
9.6 (2-10)
7.1 (1-10)
9.5 (2-10)
9.2 (2-10)
Mean severity score
(possible range, 1-10)
7.6 (1-10)
8.3 (1-10)
7.3 (1-10)
5.8 (1-10)
5.2 (1-10)
4.5 (1-10)
6.5 (1-10)
3.6 (1-10)
2.6 (1-8)
Sum of mean importance
and severity (possible
range, 2-20)
16.6 (9-20)
16.2 (6-20)
15.4 (6-20)
14.4 (6-20)
14.2 (7-20)
14.1 (7-20)
13.6 (7-20)
13.1 (7-20)
11.8 (3-20)

Vol. 29, No.2, 2001
Number
of
Subjects
7
6
5
4
3
2
0
o 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
Activity Score
Figure 1. Distribution of scores on the activity rating scale.
tion with the Daniel scale. Importantly, the new scale was
the only one that was statistically significantly inversely
correlated with age (older patients rated as less active, r =
-0.48, P = 0.002). Although the other scales were in›
versely related to age as well (Tegner, r = -0.14, P = 0.41;
Cincinnati, r = -0.25, P = 0.12; Daniel, r = -0.12, P =
0.4 7), their correlations with age were less strong.
DISCUSSION
This study describes the development and evaluation of a
new rating scale for patients’ activity levels. This scale is
different from most previous measures of activity because
it is not based on participation in specific sports. Instead,
patients are asked about components of physical function
that are common to different sporting activities. This
strategy was selected for several reasons. First, people
participate in different sports for a variety of social or
cultural reasons. Second, it is difficult to objectively rank
sports by intensity or difficulty. Further, people who par›
ticipate in the same sport do so with varying frequencies
or intensities or both. By assessing the frequency of spe›
cific physical tasks, such as running or jumping, patients
can be compared more readily. This scale does not assess
ability because we are measuring participation rather
than competence.
The goal of the instrument is to target the general
activity level of the patient, not the most recent activity
level in the previous days or weeks. A patient’s activity
level at a given point in time can be affected by the season
(winter or summer), recent injury, illness, or surgery.
Therefore, we chose to ask patients their highest (or peak)
activity level in the past year to obtain a more accurate
estimate of their baseline activity when participating in
their sport (see "Appendix"). The highest level of activity
required by the patient to participate in their sport is
important for quantifYing their activity without confusing
frequency of activity with ability.
This activity scale measures patients’ activity levels
with a particular emphasis on activities that are difficult
for someone who has a pathologic condition of the knee
such as ACL insufficiency, a meniscal tear, or a chondral
Activity Rating Scale for the Knee 217
defect. Although the majority of sports that are difficult
for patients with knee problems involve running, pivoting,
cutting, and deceleration, there are a few exceptions to
this rule, such as swimming. In the case of a patient who
swims frequently but who never participates in running,
cutting, pivoting, or decelerating sports, their activity
level would potentially be underestimated.
The newly developed scale can be completed in a very
short time frame, allowing it to be used in conjunction
with other health status instruments. The scale demon›
strated excellent construct validity, as the correlations
among it and the other activity scales (Tegner, Cincinnati,
and Daniels) were greatest with the new instrument. This
scale was the only one to have a statistically significant
inverse correlation with age, which was one of the con›
structs identified a priori.
This instrument should be used as a baseline measure
of activity, as a patient characteristic, to describe the
subjects studied in clinical research. The scale is designed
to measure activity (what patients are doing) rather than
health status (how patients are doing). Although the two
are related, the latter is better accomplished by a site- or
condition-specific health-related quality of life question›
naire.
24
The use of this tool for studies in sports medicine
will allow appropriate generalizability of results and im›
prove the scientific validity of the conclusions of clinical
research in this field.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
The authors are grateful to James Hakim for his assis›
tance with data collection for the reliability and validity
analyses. Dr. Marx was supported by an American Acad›
emy of Orthopaedic Surgeons Health Services Research
Fellowship and a Royal College of Physicians and Sur›
geons of Canada Detweiler Travelling Fellowship.
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Please indicate how often you perfonned each activity in your
healthiest and most active state, in the past year.
Less than One time in One time 2or3 4 or more
one time in a month in a times in a times in a
a month week week week
Running: running while
playing a sport or jogging
Cutting: changing directions
while running
Decelerating: coming to a
quick stop while running
Pivoting: turning your body
with your foot planted while
playing a sport; For example:
skiing, skating, kicking,
throwing, hitting a ball (golf,
tennis, squash), etc.