ACL injuries have been steadily increasing in incidence for years. Children and adults alike often elect to undergo an ACL reconstruction in the hopes of returning to sports with a stable knee.
Unfortunately, at least 20-25% of people who injure their ACL will go on to tear their new ACL or their other ACL. That means that thousands of people each year are undergoing a second ACL surgery — or a revision ACL reconstruction.
A revision ACL reconstruction is a lot more complicated than your initial ACL surgery. During a revision surgery we need to determine if your first ACL was performed properly and we can use the old tunnels … or we need to determine if we need to close up your old tunnels with a bone graft and come back in a few months to put the revision ACL in place.
Obviously waiting for the bone graft to heal and close the tunnels is very unfortunate, but it is done to give you the best chance of a good recovery from a revision ACL surgery.
From your perspective, the recovery from revision ACL surgery will be very similar to the recovery from your first ACL surgery. Your rehabilitation is just as critical as the surgery if you hope to return to sports.
For many years we suspected that the chance that you would be able to return to sports after a second acl reconstruction was lower… but we didn’t have many significant quality research studies to support that theory.
The paper quoted below helps shed some light on this topic. The authors found that your chance of returning to sports after a revision ACL reconstruction is in fact lower than your chance of returning from your first ACL surgery; but the authors found that the rate of return is not as low as we feared in might be.
Return-to-sport rates of patients after revision ACLR were similar to those after their primary surgery but were still lower than the reported rates of ACLR patients who did not need revision surgery.
Hopefully you never find yourself needing to think about a revision ACL reconstruction. But if you do, and if your second surgery is successful, then it appears that you have a reasonably good chance of returning to sports.