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If You Tear a Knee Ligament, Arthritis is Likely to Follow in 10 Years


Check out the most recent article in the NY Times on If You Tear a Knee Ligament, Arthritis is Likely to Follow in 10 Years. 


Unfortunately, there is still not a ton of research available on the longevity of your knees after tearing knee ligaments, especially at a very young age. We do know that the limited research on the long-term effects of damage to connective tissue indicates that a patient, no matter how young, has a 50 percent chance of developing arthritis within a decade. The sad part is this effects someone of any age. I tore my ACL for the first time when I was 13 years old. Think of how these youth athletes knees are going to be when they are 23, 33, and 43. Those are still very young ages to be dealing with long term arthritis.


Consequently worse, the effects of having multiple knee ligament tears like tearing your ACL, MCL, and meniscus all at once increase these odds even more. Many athletes end up tearing their ACL again, or injuring the ACL on the other knee. There isn’t a lot of data on the extra implications involving the longevity of these athletes’ knees because many of the injuries like this have only started happening in the past 20 years. We are only just now realizing how poor the long term outcomes are for these athletes and only the future can elude to the detrimental effects of having multiple knee ligament tears and multiple knee ligament surgeries at a young age.


According to Dr. Thomas Myers of Myers Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Center in Atlanta, Georgia regarding ACL reconstruction:


“What are the long term consequences? It turns out not great. The data shows that if you have a poorly placed or not anatomic graft your chance of having a meniscus tear in 10 years is upwards of 60%. The chances of having radiographic signs of arthritis in 10 years are 85%. If someone does an ACL surgery on you when you are 18 years old and sends you away for 10 years; there is a 6-10 chance that you are going to come back before then with a meniscus tear. There’s an 8-10 chance that X-ray will show arthritis at 28 years old. Fast forward another 10 years and you are bone on bone and you are looking at a knee replacement at age 38. It’s not without consequence to poorly place this graft and not do a good job of reconstructing the normal knee kinematics. It has consequences down the road.”


Right now all we can do is treat our knees with the upmost of care. Make sure you do your research and find the best orthopedic surgeon in your area. And implement ACL injury prevention programs on all female youth sports teams as well as incorporate a long term post operative strength training and ACL injury prevention program if you have torn your ACL already. We need to take better care of our knees. We need to change the statistics and help future generations of athletes from having arthritis at the age of 23.