Over 100,000 ACL reconstructions are performed in the United States each year. Traditionally those patients have been athletes or very active people, usually from teenage years to adults in their 20s and 30s.
Is ACL surgery a good option for older patients?
Today more and more adults remain physically active into their later years than ever before. Should an active man or woman in these age groups undergo ACL reconstruction surgery if such an injury occurred? For example, if you are a 62-year-old woman who does group fitness classes five or six days a week and you tear your ACL stepping awkwardly off a box, would surgery be a good idea? A study recently published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine suggests ACL surgery could benefit older patients. Researchers study 12 patients who underwent ACL reconstruction. All were over 60 years old, and they averaged 61 years of age at the time of surgery. They followed the patients for over four years. None of the patients exhibited arthritis changes on x-rays before surgery.
Outcomes of ACL surgery in patients older than 60
Of the 12 patients who had ACL reconstruction, 10 (or 83%) of them returned to sports. Six returned to their preinjury level of activity, which included snow skiing. Four returned to sports at a modified level.
The researchers did not observe any major surgical complications in these patients despite the logical assumption that older patients have more medical conditions that could increase the risk.
They also observed no significant degeneration of these patients’ knees after surgery or development of osteoarthritis.
Take home message about ACL surgery after 60
This study shows that ACL surgery can benefit active people, even in their 60s. If you want to continue to play sports or exercise regularly, you should discuss with your orthopedic surgeon whether you would benefit from the surgery and remain active.
Before the mid-1980s, athletes rarely returned to sports after suffering an ACL injury. In my new book, That’s Gotta Hurt: The Injuries That Changed Sports Forever, I explain how revolutions in the surgery and rehab changed the lives and careers of athletes with these injuries. If you or anyone you know has had an ACL injury, you need to read it! Order your copy now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound or Powell’s Books.
Toanen C, Demey G, Ntagiopoulos PG, Ferrua P, Dejour D. Is There Any Benefit in Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction in Patients Older Than 60 Years? Am J Sports Med. Published online ahead of print December 1, 2016.