How to Minimize the Chance of a Future ACL Tear

A recent study being presented at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine’s (AOSSM) Annual Meeting suggests that identification and patient education regarding modifiable risk factors may minimize the chance of a future ACL tear.

Re-tearing a repaired knee Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) happens all too frequently, so it is important to know the factors that make it happen.

The research suggests that a few risk factors such as the type of graft, age and activity level may point to the possibility of re-injury. Lead author Christopher C. Kaeding, MD of the Ohio State University stated that patients may be able to minimize re-tears with better education about adjustments that can be made based on these risk factors.

About ACL Reconstruction

One of the most common knee injuries, the tear of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) occurs most often in athletes. The injury causes the knee to become unstable and the joint to slide forward too much. Reconstruction is usually not performed until several weeks after the injury, when swelling and inflammation have been reduced. Simply reconnecting the torn ends will not repair the ACL, so the torn ligament needs to be completely removed and replaced with a new ACL.

Research Results and Conclusions

Kaeding and his team analyzed data from 2,695 patients through the MOON ACL injury database from 2002-2008. All patients included in the study had a primary ACL reconstruction with no history of contralateral knee surgery. Identified as criteria for inclusion into the study were:

  • graft type
  • age
  • Mark score
  • sport(s) played after surgery
  • sex
  • smoking status
  • meniscal tear status
  • Body Mass Index (BMI)

At the end of the study, results have shown that 116 people out of the 2,695 (4.3%) had a graft re-tear on the same side of the body and 97 (3.6%) had a re-tear on the opposite side. Also, the odds of re-tearing the same ACL decreased by 9% for each year of increased age, and the odds of re-tear on the opposite ACL decreased by 4% for every year of increased age.

"The study highlights that younger age, higher activity levels at time of injury and what type of graft used (allograft) may increase risk of same side ACL injury within two years. With individuals having higher activity levels and lower age re-tears on the opposite leg were more prominent," said Kaeding. Continued neuro-muscular training even after the immediate rehabilitation process has ended helps prevent future tears.

I am a board-certified Orthopaedic Surgeon with a Subspecialty Certification in Sport Medicine, and, as a member of the International ACL Study Group, my mission is to get my patients back in the game as fast as possible. Call 760.635.7800 and set an appointment today!