Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury

Young athletes with an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury need proper treatment to ensure their knee stays strong after the ACL heals. 

We most often see injuries of the ACL—one of the four main ligaments in the knee—in children and young adults who play sports that involve sudden, sharp changes of direction, like football, soccer and basketball. 

Signs of an ACL tear include feeling a “pop” at the time of the injury, followed by immediate swelling and pain in the knee joint. When the ACL is torn, the knee is unstable and prone to injury, especially of the cartilage and meniscus inside in the knee joint.

Our team uses specific tests including X-ray and MRI to confirm whether your child has an ACL injury, as well as additional injuries to the meniscal and cartilage, which we sometimes also see with ACL injuries.

Treatment

The most appropriate treatment for a young athlete with an ACL tear depends on factors like the patient’s skeletal maturity, family and patient desires, level of competition, functional disability, and the presence of other knee injuries.

Functional bracing and non-operative management may cause continued knee instability for athletes who return to their sport, leading to cumulative damage in the knee joint and early degeneration.

Surgical ACL reconstruction stabilizes the knee joint to allow your child to return to their sport and prevent further damage to the meniscus or cartilage while their bones continue to grow.

Rehabilitation and recovery

In the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Sports Medicine program, we provide young athletes with physical therapy to help them regain strength, prevent further injury, and get back in the game. Before your child’s ACL reconstruction, we will teach him or her specific exercises that help to strengthen the knee depending on your child’s individual needs and treatment plan. After ACL reconstruction, physical therapy is necessary to restore range of motion, strength and lower extremity biomechanics.

Physical therapy typically begins three days after surgery. The therapist will redress the knee with a smaller dressing, and adjust the post-operative brace as needed. We’ll then evaluate your child’s strength, range of motion, walking ability and over-all functional mobility to determine your child's therapy program. The therapist will continually assess your child throughout their therapy program to make sure the program is addressing their individual needs as they heal.
 

Contact Us

Knee Pain?

If your child has knee pain and you’re concerned he or she may have an ACL tear, call 727-76SPORT to schedule an appointment with our Sports Medicine physicians, who will determine a diagnosis and recommend further treatment.

Need Surgery?

If your child has been diagnosed with an ACL tear and you would like to schedule a consultation with one of our orthopaedic surgeons, call Children’s Orthopaedic and Scoliosis Surgery Associates, L.L.P. at 727-898-2663. Surgical treatment for sports injuries at Johns Hopkins All Children’s is provided by the surgeons at COSSA.

Meet our ACL Surgeons

Drew Warnick, M.D. Orthopaedics

Dr. Warnick is a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. He sees patients in the St. Petersburg and Tampa locations of Children's Orthopaedic and Scoliosis Surgery Associates (COSSA), L.L.P., the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care locations in East Lake and Pasco, and at IMG Academy where Johns Hopkins All Children’s provides sports medicine and general health services.
View Drew’s Bio

Paul Benfanti, M.D. Orthopaedics

Dr. Benfanti is a pediatric orthopaedic surgeon at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. He sees patients in the St. Petersburg and Tampa locations of Children's Orthopaedic and Scoliosis Surgery Associates (COSSA), L.L.P., and the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care locations in East Lake and Pasco.
View Paul’s Bio

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