Teenage boy playing football.

Aug 27, 2015 / Sports Medicine

ACL Reconstruction for Very Young Athletes – Sports Medicine

At one time, orthopedic surgeons believed that waiting for surgery until an athlete was fully grown was ideal for kids who had torn their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Henry Ellis, M.D., and Philip Wilson, M.D., have extensively studied the effects of waiting to reconstruct a torn ACL. They have found it’s not always best for some patients. Without a healthy ACL, one of the primary stabilizers for the knee, other tissues inside the joint are at risk for damage.

To determine the right course of care for a very young athlete, our first step is to estimate the number of years of growth left in the knee joint. We do this by looking at the growth plates in an X-ray of the hand to determine the patient’s “bone age.” Only with the “bone age” can the best treatment plan can be put in place for optimal outcomes.

Scott, now 13 years old, had his ACL reconstructed by Dr. Ellis, a Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children pediatric orthopedic surgeon, when he was 10. In athletes like him, with several years left to grow, the surgeon must carefully protect the growth plates. This way, the knee is stabilized, but the legs can continue to grow normally. If adult procedures are incorrectly used on young knees, the legs may end up different lengths or the injured leg may become bowed.

Now, Scott is back in action on the football field with no complaints and no concerns.  Good luck to Scott and the Bulldogs!

To learn more about growth plates, check out Dr. Ellis’ comments in an earlier post, "Have you ever thought about how bones grow?"

Learn more about pediatric sports medicine and surgical options.


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