Stories about: ACL

Five strategies to keep your athlete engaged and positive after ACL surgery

christino-043 (2)About the blogger: Melissa Christino, MD, is an orthopedic sports medicine fellow in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Sports Medicine Division.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in children and teens can be challenging injuries. While the surgery for ACL reconstruction generally involves minimal hospital time, patients must complete six to nine months of aggressive physical therapy to rehabilitate the injured leg, help optimize results and prevent re-injury.

Recovering from an ACL injury can be more devastating to a young athlete than the injury itself, and it is important for parents to be aware of the psychological consequences that may accompany their child’s physical injury. Having a positive attitude has been shown to significantly help with rehabilitation and surgical outcomes.

How might my child feel after an ACL injury?

While it’s impossible to pinpoint exactly what any athlete is experiencing during recovery from ACL surgery, there are some common patterns.

Young athletes can often feel isolated and depressed during this time. Not only are they missing months and months of their sports seasons, but they are also taken away from the camaraderie of their teammates, unable to participate in activities that bring them happiness and fulfillment and are uncertain of how they will be able to perform once they return to sports. It can also be very hard for a developing child or adolescent to fully commit to what seems like endless rehabilitation with long-term results.

Parents, coaches, friends and teammates can help young athletes through the recovery process.

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Nearly 40 years after milestone ACL reconstruction surgery, Puck skis like a kid

WheatonPuck_52650004 (2)“I’ve skied 1.7 million vertical feet in the last five years,” says 36-year-old Philip ‘Puck’ Wheaton. It’s an awful lot of skiing, especially for a guy who was born without an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)—the critical ligament that holds the knee together.

When Puck had started walking in 1979, he seemed to wobble a bit—like most toddlers do, says his mother Liz Wheaton. At his 18-month checkup, his pediatrician determined there was more to Puck’s unsteadiness than run-of-the-mill toddler wobbliness. He referred Puck to Lyle Micheli, MD, director of Boston Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine Division.

“Dr. Micheli was right on the case and determined that Puck was missing his ACL,” says Liz.

An innovation in ACL surgery

Puck’s condition made for a very challenging surgical dilemma. Surgery to reconstruct torn ACLs was pioneered in the late 1960s, but it required drill holes through the knee. The operation couldn’t be safely performed on growing children because the drill holes could damage the growth plates of the knee and disrupt future leg growth. In fact, no surgeon had attempted ACL reconstruction surgery on a child younger than age two at the time.

Micheli did what the world’s best surgeons do. He improvised and innovated.

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ACL surgery 10 years later: an athlete looks back

The decision to proceed with anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction to treat a torn ACL on a growing child can be difficult. Parents often weigh the pros and cons of surgery versus the risks of a more conservative approach with limited activity. After surgery, they wonder how to best help their child manage the difficult recovery period and return to sports. As with many parenting challenges, there is no single right answer. Nearly 10 years after his ACL surgery, University of Michigan sophomore Gabe Kahn reflects on his story.

At the age of 9, Kahn endured a spate of leg injuries that included two broken legs, a torn ACL and a torn meniscus. ACL reconstruction and rehabilitation tested the young athlete, but nearly 10 years later, “I never think about it,” he says.

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Beating the odds: After three knee injuries, a female athlete triumphs


There is a special kind of female athlete who is so dedicated that her sport becomes her life. Because research shows that girls and women are prone to higher rates of injuries and other health complications, these female athletes require a level of dedication not only to their sports, but also to their long-term health. And by pairing the two, they prevail.

For Krista Pinciaro, soccer player at Medfield High School, dedication to the sport came naturally. But when she tore her medial meniscus and re-tore her lateral meniscus (after tearing both her meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) years before), she knew her senior-year soccer season was at stake.

“It was one of the worst days of my life,” says Krista. “Soccer isn’t just a sport to me, it’s my everything. It made me feel like I belonged to something, and it made me succeed academically because I knew I had to in order to keep playing. My teammates and my coaches were all like members of my family. Not playing was devastating for me.”

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