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Kids With Knee ACL Injuries Require Special Care

Researchers say ligament injury, once rare in youngsters, is rising with sports training intensity

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Youngsters who suffer an injury to the knee's anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) require special treatment and care to prevent future knee injuries and complications such as osteoarthritis, a new study indicates.

The ACL is the main, stabilizing ligament of the knee joint. ACL injuries were once rare in children and young teens but are on the rise due to factors such as year-round training, less free play and a focus on only one type of sport, according to the researchers

They analyzed published studies to identity the best ways to treat ACL injuries in children and adolescents whose bones have not yet fully matured, which typically occurs in girls by age 14 and in boys by age 16.

The study appears in the February issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

Based on their review, the researchers said that youngsters with an ACL injury should be treated by an orthopedic surgeon who has expertise in surgical treatment of this type of injury, according to a journal news release.

Among their other recommendations:

  • Nonsurgical treatment -- including limits on physical activity and bracing and/or physical therapy -- should be considered for patients with partial ACL tears that involve less than 50 percent of the diameter of the ligament
  • Management after surgery may include weight-bearing and physical activity restrictions, physical therapy, knee strength-training exercises and a gradual, careful return to sports.

Complications from ACL surgery are rare in youngsters when the appropriate operation is performed on the right patient, study author Dr. Jeremy Frank, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon at the Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital in Hollywood, Fla., said in the news release.

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about anterior cruciate ligament injury (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001074.htm ).

SOURCE: Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, news release, Feb. 6, 2013