Until a child's bones have fully matured (in girls, typically by age 14; in boys, age 16), an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)the primary, stabilizing ligament of the knee jointrequires special consideration, treatment and care to ensure appropriate healing and to prevent long-term complications.
According to a review article in the February 2013 issue of the Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (JAAOS), ACL injuries once were considered rare in children and adolescents. However, the number of ACL injuries in young athletes is on the rise, "whether they result from year-round training, less free play or increased single sport concentration," said lead study author and pediatric orthopaedic surgeon Jeremy Frank, MD, with Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital's Department of Pediatric Orthopaedics and [U18] Sports Medicine in Hollywood, Fla.
To avoid potential future complications, such as early onset osteoarthritis, the literature review outlines the optimal strategies for treating pediatric ACL injuries based on the specifics of the injury and the child's skeletal (bone), age and developmental maturity.
Among the recommendations:
"There are currently numerous safe and effective surgical techniques to reconstruct the ACL in the skeletally immature sportsperson to restore stability and forestall the early progression towards meniscal and chondral (cartilage) pathologies (disease)," said Dr. Frank. Complications from ACL surgery are rare in children when the appropriate operation is performed on the right patient.
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American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons