Children who suffer an ACL tear can not be treated like small adults.  Your child is far more likely to suffer secondary injuries such as meniscus tears following an ACL tear. In addition, if ACL surgery is not performed in a timely manner, your child’s chance of returning to sports diminishes dramatically. ACL Tears in Children

Children and adolescents who undergo early surgical reconstruction after suffering a complete tear of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) have much better outcomes than those who delay surgery or never have surgery at all, says a 2013 study via Early ACL Reconstruction Strongly Recommended For Young Athletes, Study Says | MomsTeam.

Scared… confused ? ACL surgery is a daunting issue for parents of children who have an unstable knee.  Unfortunately ACL tears are occurring more frequently children.  Children are not little adults.. they require a different approach when treating their injuries.  As research evolves.. our treatment recommendations must evolve as well. Your mind is swirling with questions and concerns… that is quite normal.  The more you are prepared.. the better the chance that your child will be able to return to their active lifestyle.

ACL Tears in Children

Some considerations when your child has an ACL tear:

  • Volume matters — Seek out a Sports Medicine Orthopedist who performs many ACL reconstructions and is well versed in how to address ACL tears in children.
  • Timing of ACL surgery — there is no perfect time.  These injuries seriously disrupt our lives.  Our lives are busy and complicated.  Adults and adolescents may be able to delay surgery by significantly curtailing their activities.  Young children can not do this.  They will push the boundaries  and put their knee at risk.  By no means is this emergency surgery – but having the surgery within a reasonable time frame is of significant importance.
  • Graft choices: we need to use tissue to build a new ACL in your child’s knee.  The research has shown that a cadaver graft or Allograft has a VERY high failure rate in children and should likely be avoided.  Your child’s own tissue is your best option.  If your child is not yet fully grown, a soft tissue graft – likely a hamstring graft will more than likely be your best option.
  • ACL Surgery Risks in children:
  1. Your child has “growth plates” which can be injured during the surgery.  This could lead to a growth disturbance
  2. A growth plate injury can also cause the leg to grow at an abnormal angle.
  3. Once your child has torn an ACL in one knee they are higher risk of tearing the ACL in the other knee… or again in the reconstructed knee.
  4. Your child might not return to sports at their previous level of competition.

As the parent of a child with an ACL tear, you have many issues to ponder, and many decisions to make.  Hopefully this short piece helps point you in the right direction as you search for as much information as you desire to consume.

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Disclaimer:  this information is for your education and should not be considered medical advice regarding diagnosis or treatment recommendations. Some links on this page may be affiliate links. Read the full disclaimer.

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About the author:

Howard J. Luks, MD

Howard J. Luks, MD

A Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon in Hawthorne, NY. Dr. Howard Luks specializes in the treatment of the shoulder, knee, elbow, and ankle. He has a very "social" patient centric approach and believes that the more you understand about your issue, the more informed your decisions will be. Ultimately your treatments and his recommendations will be based on proper communications, proper understanding, and shared decision-making principles – all geared to improve your quality of life.