Bone, Joint and Muscle Conditions

ACL Injuries Treatment

It's desirable to treat an ACL injury with methods that do not require surgery. This is especially true with growing children and teenagers. Seattle Children's has a physical therapy facility for sports medicine dedicated to helping your child recover from injury.

Your child may need surgery if:

  • The injury is severe.
  • Physical therapy does not make the knee stable enough to return to sports.

One of the most important ways to prevent repeat injuries is to modify activities that might hurt the knee as it heals. These activities include high-level athletics that require:

  • Jumping
  • Pivoting
  • Contact with other player
  • Playing on an uneven surface

ACL Injuries Treatment Options

This repair uses a hamstring tendon graft (red). The repair is mostly anatomic but extends through the physes (green arrows). Courtesy of 'Fundamentals of Pediatric Orthopedics,' ©2003 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

Transepiphyseal anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.

Non-surgical treatments for ACL injuries

If your child's injury is mild, they may be able to recover with the help of physical therapy alone. Our staff is expert at devising and teaching exercises that help bring back motion in your child's knee and strengthen the muscles around it.

We have a sports lab on site to help our patients with rehabilitation.

ACL surgery

The goal of surgery in young patients is to make their knees stable with the least possible risk of affecting their growth.

During surgery, orthopedic surgeons use tissue taken from your child's hamstring tendons to reconstruct the ACL. We drill small holes in the shinbone and the thighbone. Then, we pass the new ligament through the drill holes and secure it to the bones. This surgery requires only small incisions.

During the operation, orthopedic surgeons insert a tool called an arthroscope into your child's knee. They use pictures displayed on a large monitor to guide their actions.

After surgery, your child will have regular physical therapy, most likely twice a week for four to eight weeks. This will help strengthen muscles and stabilize the knee. Your child probably will need physical therapy for nine months to a year after surgery.

Read more about surgery for anterior cruciate ligament deficiency in children and young adults.