To prospectively evaluate prognostic factors for new onset or progression of degenerative change on follow-up MRI one year after knee trauma and the association with clinical outcome. Within a prospective observational cohort study in general practice, we studied a subgroup of 117 patients with acute knee trauma (mean age 41 years, 43% women). Degenerative change was scored on MRI at baseline and after one year follow-up. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed to evaluate prognostic factors for new onset or progressive degenerative change on follow-up MRI. Association between new or progressive degeneration and clinical outcome after one year was assessed. On follow-up MRI 15% of patients with pre-existing knee osteoarthritis showed progression and 26% of patients demonstrated new degenerative change. The only statistically significant prognostic variable in the multivariate analysis was bone marrow oedema on initial MRI (OR 5.29 (95% CI 1.64-17.1), p = 0.005). A significant association between new or progressive degenerative change and clinical outcome was found (p = 0.003). Bone marrow oedema on MRI for acute knee injury is strongly predictive of new onset or progression of degenerative change of the femorotibial joint on follow-up MRI one year after trauma, which is reflected in clinical outcome.