Stories about: ACL tears in young athletes

The secret to a successful ACL injury recovery

By Andrea Marx

Marx_andrea_Lacrosse_2It was a simple jump stop. It was an athletic move on the basketball court that I had performed countless times. But on July 19, 2010, the summer before my junior year of high school, a simple jump stop brought my athletic career to a screeching halt.

How could it happen to me? Since freshman year, I was a competitive three-varsity athlete in field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. I had set athletic goals that I wanted to accomplish before high school graduation.

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After season-ending ACL injury, Boston skier is Olympics-bound


ACL tear

What happens when an adrenaline-addicted athlete slows down?

Julia Marino thrives at high speed and from great heights. In 2009, 17-year-old Julia was at the top of her game. Coaches and fellow slopestyle skiers had pegged her as a rising star on the World Cup circuit. Salomon, a top winter sports gear manufacturer, had signed on as her sponsor. Then, during the first event of the season, she crashed.

Crashes are common in slopestyle. Skiers hit jumps at speeds up to 35 miles per hour, flying up to 50 feet in the air to perform aerial tricks.

Julia landed awkwardly on one ski, heard a resounding pop in her left knee and felt the “most intense pain” of her life. She braced herself and skied to the medical tent.

The on-mountain medical crew insisted she wasn’t injured. But Julia and her mother doubted the diagnosis.

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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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One patient’s story: From torn ACL to MVP

For kids like 8-year-old Fletcher Gallimore, playing sports is part of their identity. But in September of 2011, Fletcher—who loves football and basketball—was accidentally pushed into a post during football practice, hitting his knee. And the accident took him and his parents down a path they never imagined.

The next days followed with occasional pain, but Fletcher and his teammates hoped he’d be OK by Saturday’s game. At practice that week, though, his knee buckled. Concerned, his parents took him to the doctor near their North Carolina hometown, and it became clear that Fletcher wouldn’t be playing on Saturday, after all.

A magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test showed that Fletcher had completely torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a major ligament in the knee that protects cartilage and keeps the knee stable. If Fletcher ever wanted to play football again, he would need to have surgery. The question was, when?

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