The risk of arthritis after ACL tear (Arthritis Awareness Month)

The risk of arthritis after ACL tear (Arthritis Awareness Month)
The risk of arthritis after ACL tear (Arthritis Awareness Month)

The month of May is observed as Arthritis Awareness Month to help people living with arthritis better manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. As the knee joint is commonly affected by arthritis, let’s consider the risk of developing arthritis after ACL tear.

It is estimated that over 250,000 ACL injuries occur in the US every year. More than half of these cases involve young, active individuals. Are they at higher risk of developing knee osteoarthritis at a relatively early age? Sustaining a knee injury does increase your risk of developing post traumatic knee osteoarthritis to some extent; however, there are several things you can do to prevent this from occurring.

Strategies for preventing knee osteoarthritis include:

  • Undergoing minimally Invasive ACL Reconstruction Surgery: According to a large-scale research study, patients treated nonoperatively for an ACL tear were 6 times more likely to be diagnosed with early knee osteoarthritis than those who had undergone ACL reconstruction surgery.
  • Avoiding Reinjury: Most athletes and sportsperson who sustain a second ACL injury after a surgical repair greatly increase their risk of developing knee osteoarthritis. This risk can be significantly decreased by delaying return to high-level activities such as jumping, hard cutting, and pivoting until knee extensor muscle strength has fully recovered which may take up to 9 months.
  • Maintaining Healthy Body-Mass Index: Being overweight or obese greatly increases your risk of developing subsequent chondral lesions and meniscal tears after ACL injury ultimately leading to osteoarthritis. Reducing excess weight helps slow down the degenerative changes in the knee and may cut the risk of osteoarthritis in half.

Due to the competitive nature of sports, many young players or active individuals may be anxious to get back to their activities as soon as possible without considering long-term consequences. However, taking the precautions mentioned above will help lower the risk of knee osteoarthritis in the future.

Dr. Ronak Patel is a Board-Certified Orthopedic Surgeon offering a full range of care for all problems of the knee and shoulder with a special interest in complex knee disorders. Book your appointment with Dr. Patel today: (630) 929-2249.