Speaking at the “Return to Play Conference 2014” in Melbourne, Professor Kim Bennell stated that while more research is needed in the area, initial studies appear to suggest that abstaining from surgery can help avoid osteoarthritis.
Kim’s research at the University of Melbourne, focuses on conservative non-drug management of musculoskeletal conditions including osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, with an emphasis on the role of exercise in both prevention and management. However, it is worth noting that surgery is not at fault here. A return to fully-loaded competitive action is. Once an athlete or elite sportsperson has recovered from surgery they resume their high impact participation in sport. Those that don’t undergo surgery tend to modify their sporting activity and take on lower impact sports such as swimming, walking and cycling. This could help protect you from osteoarthritis however more study is required in this area.
However, if you want to play elite sport than surgery is your best option. Electing to undergo surgery and a return to action are the only factors that influence osteoarthritis though, there are a number of different reasons why people are at risk when they have had ACL. Damage at the time of the injury, not just to the ligament, but to the bone and cartilage, can have an impact.
This can lead to structural damage, leading to a change in the way the ligament works. It can lead to changes in the contact area and in some instances, the muscular support is not the same as it was prior to the ACL injury.