One ACL Injury Might Mean More Down the Road

ACL surgery in teens may increase likelihood of further knee injuries

(RxWiki News) Injuries are a potential risk athletic kids face. Concussions may be getting a lot of press lately, but injuries to the knee may be just as important.

A new study found that young athletes who needed ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) surgery were likely to re-injure their knees over a 15-year period.

Justin P. Roe, MBBS, FRACS, of the North Sydney Orthopaedic and Sports Medicine Centre in Australia, led this study.

"[This] is the first study to examine the incidence and risk factors for further ACL injury in a solely juvenile population over the long term," Dr. Roe said in a press release.

Dr. Roe and team studied nearly 250 patients who had ACL surgery between 1993 and 1998. The ACL helps control the motion of the knee.

All of the patients studied were between 13 and 18 years old.

The patients were interviewed by phone or online at a minimum of 15 years after their surgery.

Dr. Roe and team found that further ACL injury occurred in 29 percent of patients between the surgery and their interview.

Surgery grafts were expected to have an 85 percent survival rate over 15 years. Grafts are sections of other knee tendons used to help the ACL grow back. Grafts survived if they did not rupture, tear or require further surgery.

Patients who had a family history of ACL tears had reduced graft survival.

Dr. Roe and team found that 69 percent of patients returned to pre-injury sports activity. Also, 65 percent of patients were still active in high-stress athletics.

This study highlighted the difference between adults and teens in postsurgery recovery.

"Our study shows that young knees are more prone to re-injury than the adult population when compared to other research in this area," Dr. Roe said in a press release. "While surgery still may be the best option for many ACL injuries, it brings to light the important factors physicians must consider when treating the younger population."

This study was presented March 28 at the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine Specialty Day meeting in Las Vegas. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Dr. Roe and team disclosed no funding sources or conflicts of interest.

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Review Date: 
March 27, 2015