Geometric Characteristics of the Knee Are Associated With a Noncontact ACL Injury to the Contralateral Knee After Unilateral ACL Injury in Young Female Athletes

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Abstract

Background:

Contralateral anterior cruciate ligament (CACL) injury after recovery from a first-time ACL rupture occurs at a high rate in young females; however, little is known about the risk factors associated with bilateral ACL trauma.

Hypothesis:

The geometric characteristics of the contralateral knee at the time of the initial ACL injury are associated with risk of suffering a CACL injury in these female athletes.

Study Design:

Case-control study; Level of evidence, 3.

Methods:

Sixty-two female athletes who suffered their first noncontact ACL injury while participating in sports at the high school or college level were identified, and geometry of the femoral notch, ACL, tibial spines, tibial subchondral bone, articular cartilage surfaces, and menisci of the contralateral, uninjured, knee was characterized in 3 dimensions. We were unable to contact 7 subjects and followed the remaining 55 until either a CACL injury or an ACL graft injury occurred or, if they were not injured, until the date of last contact (mean, 34 months after their first ACL injury). Cox regression was used to identify risk factors for CACL injury.

Results:

Ten (18.2%) females suffered a CACL injury. Decreases of 1 SD in femoral intercondylar notch width (measured at its outlet and anterior attachment of the ACL) were associated with increases in the risk of suffering a CACL injury (hazard ratio = 1.88 and 2.05, respectively). Likewise, 1 SD decreases in medial-lateral width of the lateral tibial spine, height of the medial tibial spine, and thickness of the articular cartilage located at the posterior region of the medial tibial compartment were associated with 3.59-, 1.75-, and 2.15-fold increases in the risk of CACL injury, respectively.

Conclusion:

After ACL injury, subsequent injury to the CACL is influenced by geometry of the structures that surround the ACL (the femoral notch and tibial spines). This information can be used to identify individuals at increased risk for CACL trauma, who might benefit from targeted risk-reduction interventions.

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