Incidence of second anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury 2 years after primary ACL reconstruction and return to sport

Mark V. Paterno, Mitchell Rauh, Laura C. Schmitt, Kevin R. Ford, Timothy E. Hewett

Research output: Contribution to journalComment/debatepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Objectives: The incidence of second anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in the first 12 months after ACL reconstruction (ACLR) and return to sport in a young, active population has been reported to be 15 times greater than a previously uninjured cohort. It is unknown if this high relative rate of injury continues beyond the first year after return to sport following ACLR. The tested hypothesis was that the incidence rate of a subsequent ACL injury in the 2 years following ACLR and return to sports would be less than the incidence rate reported within the first 12 months after return to sport, but greater than the ACL injury incidence rate in an uninjured cohort of young athletes. Methods: Seventy-eight subjects who underwent ACLR and were ready to return to a pivoting/cutting sport (RTS) and 47 controls were prospectively enrolled. Each subject was followed for injury and athletic exposure (AE) data for a 24-month period after return to sport. Twenty-three subjects after ACLR and 4 control subjects suffered an ACL injury during this time. Incidence rate ratios (IRR) were calculated to compare the rates (per 1000 athletic exposures [AEs]) of ACL injury in athletes in the ACLR group and control group. For the ACLR group, similar comparisons were conducted for side of injury by sex. Results: The overall incidence rate of a second ACL injury within 24 months after ACLR and RTS (1.39/1000 AE) was nearly 6 times greater (IRR=5.71, 95% CI: 2.0, 22.7, p=0.0003) than healthy control subjects (0.24/1,000 AE). Female ACLR athletes demonstrated 4 times greater rate of injury within 24 months of RTS (IRR=4.51; 95% CI: 1.5-18.2, p=0.0004) than female controls. Within the ACLR group, there was a trend for female subjects to be over two (RR=2.43, 95% CI: 0.8, 8.6) times more likely to suffer a contralateral injury (1.13/1000 AEs) than an ipsilateral injury (0.47/1000 AEs). Overall, 29.5% of athletes suffered a second ACL injury within 24 months of RTS with 20.5% sustaining a contralateral injury and 9.0% incurring an ipsilateral graft re-tear injury. A higher proportion of females (23.7%) suffered a contralateral injury compared to males (10.5%). Conversely, for ipsilateral injuries, the incidence proportion between females (8.5%) and males (10.5%) were found to be similar. Conclusion: These data support the hypothesis that in the 24 months following ACLR and RTS, patients are at greater risk (nearly 6 times) to suffer a subsequent ACL injury compared to young athletes without a history of ACL injury. Additionally, the contralateral limb of female patients appears to be at greatest risk. These 24 month outcome data, analyzed in conjunction with recent 12 month outcome data which noted a 15 times greater risk of ACL injury compared to healthy control subject, indicate that the greatest risk of second ACL injury after ACLR occurs during the initial 12 months after ACLR and RTS than the second year after RTS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalOrthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Sep 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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