ACL Surgery for Children, Teenagers & Growing Athletes
Did you know that ACL injuries are far more common in children/adolescents than they are in adults? Fortunately, advances in ACL treatments and surgical techniques mean that ACL reconstruction in these patients is now both safe and effective. ACL reconstruction in patients that are still growing should ideally be performed by surgeons with specific, sub-specialist training in paediatric ACL surgery.
Is ACL Reconstruction Safe for Children?
ACL reconstruction in children is safe and effective. I perform ACL reconstruction in children as young as 8 years of age, but fortunately ACL injury in this age group is quite rare. The bulk of the ACL injuries we see in children occur in adolescence. Because children are still growing there are some additional risks that you need to discuss with your surgeon, but these risks are very low.
Growing Athletes, or school-aged children, have a predictably poor outcome without ACL reconstruction surgery. Even if these patients don’t play sports, the high demands of their young age and lifestyle often leads to ongoing instability of their knee. This causes further cartilage and meniscal damage, and there is a risk of knee arthritis later in life.
ACL Recovery for Children
When treating Growing Athletes, I focus a lot of time and attention actually talking with that young patient. Although Mum and Dad’s opinions and questions are very important, at the end of the day we need your child to take ownership of their injury, and their recovery. And the best way of achieving this is to allow them to make informed decisions about their own knee. Of course, Mum and Dad, and your surgeon, will play an important role in helping them make a decision, but they need to feel confident that they are in control.
Approximately half of the ACL reconstructions I perform are in Growing Athletes. And being a parent myself, I can understand how much stress and anxiety an ACL injury causes Mum and Dad. But I am constantly amazed at how well children cope with the surgery and recovery.
Specialist ACL Treatment for Children
Children are not just ‘little adults’ and it is my recommendation that ACL reconstruction in Growing Athletes should be performed by orthopaedic surgeons with specific, sub-specialist training in paediatric ACL reconstruction. Ask your surgeon if they have this level of training, and what their experience is within this area.
Dr Matthew Hutchinson
Paediatric ACL Surgeon
Dr Matthew Hutchinson is an Australian and internationally trained orthopaedic surgeon who treats both Adults and Growing Athletes with hip, knee and ankle conditions. Based in Adelaide, Dr Matthew Hutchinson is an expert in ACL reconstructions.
Dr Hutchinson completed his medical degree at The University of Adelaide, and his orthopaedic surgery training at various hospitals in South Australia. He has also worked and trained at some of the most prestigious hospitals and universities in the world, during his clinical fellowships and advanced training in North America and Europe.
Dr Matthew Hutchinson now consults at a range of locations, including SportsMed Adelaide (Stepney), Mildura & Goolwa.