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The Long-Term Consequences of an ACL Injury

How serious is an ACL injury anyway? One good surgery, some rehab, and you’re back in action, right? Unfortunately, no. Prevention of ACL injuries is important because those injuries can have lifelong consequences.

The ACL is one of the ligaments that stabilise the knee. It connects the back of the thigh bone to the front of the shin bone. It’s prone to injury in sports that require sudden changes in direction such as football, basketball, tennis, and volleyball. Australia has the highest rate of ACL reconstructions in the world. The problem is even worse for our student athletes. One in three paediatric athletes with an ACL tear go on to suffer a second ACL injury.

People with ACL injuries prove more likely to develop osteoarthritis and early-onset osteoarthritis in the affected knee. In fact, more than half will develop osteoarthritis within 10 years.(1) What’s more, over their lifetimes, up to 90% of people with ACL injuries develop osteoarthritis in the affected knee.(2) While ACL repair surgery will stabilise the knee, the evidence so far shows that it does not prevent the ensuing osteoarthritis.(3)

Learn more in our free e-book: Guide to Knee Pain [PDF Download]

This is part of our series of articles on ACL injury importance and prevention. Watch for our emails and check out our blog for more updates.



  1. Maffulli N, Longo UG, Gougoulias N, Loppini M, Denaro V. Long-term health outcomes of youth sports injuries. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2010 Jan 1;44(1):21-5.
  2. Lohmander LS, Englund PM, Dahl LL, Roos EM. The long-term consequence of anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus injuries: osteoarthritis. Am J Sports Med. 2007;35(10):1756–1769
  3. Dare D, Rodeo S. Mechanisms of post-traumatic osteoarthritis after ACL injury. Current Rheumatology Reports. 2014 Oct 1;16(10):448.


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