New Technology Helps Young Athletes with ACL Tears

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Dr. John Xerogeanes; courtesy of Emory Health Sciences Communications

Good news for young athletes with ACL injuries: doctors at Emory University have developed a 3-D MRI technology that allows surgeons to reconstruct ACL tears without disturbing growth plates.

The procedure involves creating tunnels in the femur and tibia, sliding a new ACL (typically taken from hamstring tendon or donor material) between the tunnels, and attaching it at both ends. Children who undergo the surgery will still have at least one year of recovery, but their growth plates will not be damaged.

In the past, pediatric ACL treatment involved rehabilitation, braces and no sports until kids stopped growing and surgery could be safely performed. "The problem with doing surgery on a young child is that if you damage the growth plate, you can cause a growth disturbance," says John Xerogeanes, head of the Emory Sports Medicine Center.

The new procedure has been performed on adults as well; it takes less time than the traditional surgery and may prevent subsequent ACL tears in patients.

--Whitney Dreier

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