New technology helps doctors best treat ACL tears in children

If you hear the words “ACL tear,” you may be expecting to hear about a professional athlete injured in a weekend sporting event. However these days, doctors are seeing more of these injuries in amateur athletes, especially kids. Thankfully though, new technology is fixing ACLs more accurately, and keeping kids growing healthy.

Cole McBay is only 11, but he's already suffered his first major league injury. Last year, he tore his ACL

"I knew something felt wrong in my knee. It was hurting a lot,” said Cole.

The ACL is like a rubber band that stabilizes the knee.

"Without this, if this is gone or torn, your knee will pop out of place,” said Dr. John Xerogeanes, Chief of Sports Medicine at Emory Orthopedic and Spine Center.

"A traditional reconstruction goes right across here, right across the growth plate. We don't want to do that. You may help their degeneration of their knee by preventing further injury, but you could damage them by going through the growth plate and potentially causing a growth disturbance or a misalignment of their leg,” explained Dr. Xerogeanes.

Emory and Georgia Tech researchers developed this new 3D MRI technology, using this data before surgery. Doctors can accurately pre-plan a safer, more anatomical ACL reconstruction in kids 10 years old or even younger.

"And it's a hundred percent reliable that we can use a large, a fairly large tunnel, larger than we've ever thought we can use before, and never hit the growth plate,” said Dr. Xerogeanes.

"He found a way to fix my knee and get me back playing sports again,” said Cole.

One year after surgery, Cole's grown stronger, and four inches taller. A young athlete who's happy to be back in the lineup.

Emory doctors say successful ACL surgery for kids can mean better outcomes down the road.

Multiple studies show that if surgery is not performed within two years of an ACL injury, it increases the likelihood of another significant injury that could lead to degenerative arthritis at an early age.

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