How are ACL injuries treated?
Most ACL tears are treated with reconstructive surgery in order to prevent collateral damage later in life. Patients should find a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who has completed more than 100 procedures. Surgery is a valid option for patients because it protects the overall stability and function of the knee. Surgeons use either an allograft (ligament tissue from a cadaver) or an autograft (the patient’s own tissue). Usually, surgery to reconstruct an ACL is performed arthroscopically through small incisions. The benefits of minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery include less pain and less recovery time. In most cases, the surgery is followed by physical rehabilitation to strengthen the joint and regain full range of motion.
What the Research Tells Us
Many studies report a high success rate after athletes undergo ACL reconstructive surgery. The studies prove that most athletes are able to return to their chosen sport once their ACL has been surgically repaired. Research has been conducted to test the return to sport (RTS) rate in many physically demanding sports, and in one particular study, researchers concluded that there is a 77 percent RTS rate in Major League Soccer after ACL reconstructive surgery. So, for those ACL patients who hope to continue playing at competitive levels, surgery is the best option.
About ACL Injuries in Children
ACL reconstructive surgery is usually standard treatment for adult athletes who tear an ACL. But what happens when a child sustains an ACL injury? Experts say the biggest concern about surgery for children is the knee’s growth plate at the end of the femur and tibia. This growth center is directly in the path of the drill holes, screws and staples that are typically used during ACL reconstruction. Studies show that a growing child who undergoes ACL reconstruction is at greater risk of having future knee problems. Therefore, physicians need to carefully consider those risks when deciding on surgery for younger children.