Kids and ACL Injuries

WABC-TV—August 24, 2012

Repairing a torn ligament is straightforward in an adult but more and more teen and preteen athletes are also having this problem. Dr. Jay Adlersberg reports on how more teen athletes are facing torn ligaments.


Jay Adlersberg: The problem is the torn ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament that connects the thigh and the leg bone. Itís difficult to repair a childís ACL. Using the adult method would damage the areas where the leg bones grow. The result could be a short leg. But a new surgery may be the answer.

13-year-old Lee Shapiro was rehabbing his left knee where he had the same injury as a pro football player. A torn ACL ligament.

Lee Shapiro: I was going down a ski slope and I fell on a big patch of ice. And the ski twisted and my knee twisted too--and I heard a pop.

JA: In February, Dr. Frank Cordasco operated on Lee and fixed his torn ACL with a special technique designed for the still growing leg. It's a method thatís needed as more growing young kids become young athletes and injure the ACL.

Frank Cordasco: I suspect it's related to increased levels of participation, increased levels of competition at younger ages, increases in sports specialization so that young athletes are participating in only one sport 12 months out of the year.

JA: For kids like Lee the standard approach could be to do nothing and wait for the child to grow to the age when his or her bone stops growing. A torn cartilage--even arthritis, can be the result of waiting.

The problem with doing an ACL repair on a child is that the area of the knee where the leg bone grows is still open.  It's called the growth plate (the gap in the thigh bone above and the leg bone below). Dr. Cordasco's technique avoids damage to these critical areas. It uses a tendon from the childís hamstring muscle which is doubled over twice for strength and inserted to reconnect the thigh and leg bone.

Lee has only two tiny scars to show for it, he's in physical therapy for seven months and it may be a year before full activity but he has a very mature attitude.

LS: It's a lot of fun because you get to see your progress and to see yourself strengthen. It's a lot of fun with the physical therapy.

JA: Lee wants to run track in high school. Dr. Cordasco and his colleague Dr. Daniel Green have done over 30 of these repairs over only three years. So the last word is not in about future athletics.

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