The objectives of this study are to review the long-term consequences of injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament and menisci, the pathogenic mechanisms, and the causes of the considerable variability in outcome. Injuries of the anterior cruciate ligament and menisci are common in both athletes and the general population. At 10 to 20 years after the diagnosis, on average, 50% of those with a diagnosed anterior cruciate ligament or meniscus tear have osteoarthritis with associated pain and functional impairment: the young patient with an old knee. These individuals make up a substantial proportion of the overall osteoarthritis population. There is a lack of evidence to support a protective role of repair or reconstructive surgery of the anterior cruciate ligament or meniscus against osteoarthritis development. A consistent finding in a review of the literature is the often poor reporting of critical study variables, precluding data pooling or a meta-analysis. Osteoarthritis development in the injured joints is caused by intra-articular pathogenic processes initiated at the time of injury, combined with long-term changes in dynamic joint loading. Variation in outcome is reinforced by additional variables associated with the individual such as age, sex, genetics, obesity, muscle strength, activity, and reinjury. A better understanding of these variables may improve future prevention and treatment strategies. In evaluating medical treatment, we now expect large randomized clinical trials complemented by postmarketing monitoring. We should strive toward a comparable level of quality of evidence in surgical treatment of knee injuries. In instances in which a randomized clinical trial is not feasible, natural history and other observational cohort studies need to be as carefully designed and reported as the classic randomized clinical trial, to yield useful information.