Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury

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Overview

If your child has an ACL injury, you may have many concerns and questions. It may comfort you to know that caregivers at Boston Children's Hospital offer a wealth of experience treating children, teens and young adults with ACL tears.

We’re leaders in ACL research and pioneers in the development of ACL reconstruction techniques tailored to the patient’s age and musculoskeletal maturity. Our multidisciplinary ACL team includes orthopedic surgeons, sports medicine physicians, athletic trainers, psychologists and nutritionists, ensuring the best possible care and a safe return to sports. We’re here to answer your questions and to support you and your family every step of the way with fast and coordinated access to care.

What is the ACL?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four main ligaments in the knee. It provides stability for the knee joint, particularly during cutting and pivoting activities common in sports.

What is an ACL tear?

The most common type of pediatric ACL injury is a complete tear of the ACL. Usually, surgery is indicated for these injuries. Surgical options for youth, teens and young adults vary by the patient’s age and musculoskeletal maturity.

What is ACL surgery?

Conventional ACL surgery requires the surgeon to drill tunnels through the bones on either side of the knee joint and replace the torn ACL with a tendon graft, usually from the patient’s own body hamstring or patellar tendon.

In children and adolescents, however, these areas of bone may have working growth plates that produce new bone tissue and are responsible for bone growth. If growth plates are damaged during surgery, the bone may not grow properly. Limiting damage to the growth plate is critical for patients who have not finished growing (which usually occurs between 14 to 16 years for girls, and 15 to 17 years for boys). Conventional ACL surgery is not a good option for growing patients.

Boston Children’s orthopedic surgeons are experts in growth-plate sparing ACL surgical techniques.

The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
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