Young Athletes with ACL Injuries on the Rise

ABC News
Beyond The Headline
Young Athletes with ACL Injuries on the Rise

ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) injuries are often referred to as an athlete’s worst nightmare. Not only are they extremely painful, but depending on the severity of the rip or tear, most ACL injuries require expensive surgeries and long periods of rehabilitation.

The ACL is the main stabilizing ligament that joins the upper and lower leg bones together while also supporting the knee. When an athlete runs, cuts, or pivots and tears his or her ACL, the knee becomes unstable, making walking next to impossible.

While ACL injuries are commonly seen in adult athletes, as more and more children join and participate in organized competitive team sports, more cases of children with ACL injuries are being reported.

Most doctors have recommended delaying surgery for children with ACL injuries until their bones have finished growing and reached skeletal maturity. Though some doctors point out that there are also risks associated with waiting for surgery, such as cartilage injury, joint instability, and meniscus tears. But how exactly does a doctor make that determination?

ABC News' chief medical correspondent Dr. Richard Besser spoke to Dr. Daniel Green, Associate professor of orthopedic surgery at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City to find out.

According to Dr. Green, doctors who are looking to repair an ACL injuries bypass the knee altogether. Instead they focus on the child’s wrist to analyze bone placement and development of growth plates.

Though ACL tears are not entirely preventable for children and teens who actively participle in sports like football, gymnastics, soccer, and basketball, they can reduce their risk by wearing proper athletic gear, stretching, and strengthening leg and hamstring muscles.