Preventing long-term complications of an ACL tear

May 1, 2017 by Dr. Christian Lattermann, University of Kentucky

A torn ACL (also known as the anterior cruciate ligament) is one of the most common knee injuries, with as many as 200,000 cases per year in the U.S. Young people under the age of 20 are at particular risk, in part because of participation in sports.

Despite the frequency of torn ACLs, many people don't know that the results in a significant risk of developing within 10 to . Around 70 to 80 percent of patients with a torn ACL will develop arthritis within that timeframe. Because most ACL injuries occur in , this means that arthritis could set in at a very early age. If a patient is 15 years old when she tears her ACL, for example, she could be struggling with arthritis by the age of 30.

The increased risk of arthritis is true regardless of whether the ACL tear is surgically repaired or not. The actual injury, and the knee's inflammatory response to the trauma, seem to be the culprits. The ACL is one of four main ligaments in the knee, connecting the thighbone to the shinbone, and any injury severe enough to tear the ligament is likely to affect other parts of the knee, as well. We also see bruises to the bone and damage to the cartilage, meniscus or other ligaments with about half of all ACL injuries.

At UK, doctors and researchers are currently trying to find ways to reduce the risk of arthritis by interrupting the inflammatory process in the week following the ACL injury. We hope that our research will lead to better long-term outcome for patients who experience ACL tears.

If you've torn your ACL in the past, be on the lookout for signs of arthritis in your knee. Symptoms include pain and swelling with activity. If you're experiencing these symptoms, it's best to consult an orthopedic sports medicine specialist, who will be trained in issues related to ACL injury and recovery.

If you've recently experienced an ACL injury, the most important thing for your recovery is adequate rehabilitation. The musculature around the knee joint is the biggest factor to prevent re-injury. The re-tear rate for ACL reconstruction under the age of 20 is around 20 to 25 percent, but a large portion of that can be prevented by being enrolled and trained in injury prevention rehabilitation.

Explore further: Improvements in ACL surgery may help prevent knee osteoarthritis

Related Stories

Improvements in ACL surgery may help prevent knee osteoarthritis

February 21, 2017
Injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee frequently leads to early-onset osteoarthritis, a painful condition that can occur even if the patient has undergone ACL reconstruction to prevent its onset. A new ...

Experts outline importance of recognizing, treating meniscal root tears

November 15, 2016
The menisci, cartilage discs between the joint surfaces in the knee, play an important role in distributing stress across the curved surfaces of the knee. However, tears of the root of the meniscus have been increasingly ...

ACL injuries in young female athletes now an epidemic

May 1, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—With young female athletes experiencing an epidemic of ACL knee injuries, a Loyola University Medical Center sports medicine specialist is urging parents to demand that coaches implement injury-prevention ...

Delay in surgery can cause irreparable meniscus tears in children with ACL injuries

March 12, 2012
For children aged 14 and under, delaying reconstructive surgery for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries may raise their risk of further injury, according to a new study by pediatric orthopaedic surgeons. If surgery ...

X-rays: The first and best screening tool in diagnosing knee pain among middle-aged patients

September 9, 2016
Knee pain is common among Americans age 40 and up. Nearly 1 in 17 people visit doctors' offices each year for knee pain or injuries from osteoarthritis—a progressive "wear and tear" disease of the joints. Those odds increase ...

ACL knee injuries much more likely in female athletes: Simple techniques can reduce injury risk, surgeon says

November 15, 2012
Female athletes are far more likely than males to suffer serious ACL knee injuries.

Recommended for you

Surgical adhesions can be treated, prevented in mice

November 28, 2018
A cellular culprit—as well as a possible treatment—for a common, sometimes life-threating post-surgical complication has been identified by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Cost and weight-loss potential matter most to bariatric surgery patients

November 28, 2018
A JAMA Surgery study found that patients are likely to base their weight loss surgery choice on expected out-of-pocket costs, and how much weight they can lose—not risk of complications or recovery time.

Treating spinal pain with replacement discs made of 'engineered living tissue' moves closer to reality

November 21, 2018
For the first time, bioengineered spinal discs were successfully implanted and provided long-term function in the largest animal model ever evaluated for tissue-engineered disc replacement. A new Penn Medicine study published ...

Screening for colorectal cancer spares male patients from intense treatments

November 21, 2018
While screening for colorectal cancer does not reduce mortality, it does reduce the need for chemotherapy and emergency surgeries among male patients, according to a recent Finnish study.

Rapid response inpatient education boosts use of needed blood-thinning drugs

November 16, 2018
A new study designed to reach hospitalized patients at risk shows that a "real-time" educational conversation, video or leaflet can lower the missed dose rates of drugs that can prevent potentially lethal blood clots in their ...

Race plays role in regaining weight after gastric bypass surgery

November 15, 2018
African Americans and Hispanic Americans who have undergone Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) are at greater risk to regain weight as compared to Caucasians. To date, no study has addressed the effect of race on weight regain ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.