There are some studies that support this idea. Athletes who have had a complete rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) do seem to be at increased risk for early knee arthritis. And this seems to affect those who have had surgery to repair the torn ACL as well as those who haven't had the operation.
Animal studies have given some insight into this relationship. It seems that the cartilage in the knee is responsive to load and compression. Without just the right amount of mechanical pressure, the cartilage starts to thin out.
At the same time, changes in loads on the joint seem to set up a biologic response in the chondrocytes (cartilage cells). Chondrocytes change their volume (size) when under pressure. The wrong kind of pressure can change the fluid flow in and around the chondrocytes.
Metabolic changes at the cellular level starts a cascade of events that can lead to early destruction of the joint. Altered motion after ACL injury is the first step in the sequence.
Understanding these steps in how OA gets started after ACL injury may help us find ways to prevent it from happening. Restoring full and normal motion after ACL reconstruction will be the focus of future studies.