Anterior cruciate injuries in the skeletally immature athlete: a review of treatment outcomes.

Fehnel DJ, Johnson R. Sports Med 2000 Jan;29(1):51-63

The documentation of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in the skeletally immature athlete has significantly increased over the past decade, primarily due to increased awareness of these injuries within this younger athletic population. The evaluation of these injuries are similar to that in the adult population. Diagnostic studies such as plain radiographs, as well as magnetic resonance imaging, can delineate the location of the ACL failure. Physical presentation most commonly includes an acute haemarthrosis and ligamentous insufficiency. Several studies have demonstrated that the diagnostic reliability of the physical examination is poor in children, especially in patients less than 12 years old. The site of ACL failure in this adolescent population is most commonly at the tibial insertion. We recommend arthroscopic or arthroscopically assisted open reduction and internal fixation with nonabsorbable sutures for all displaced tibial eminence fractures. Mid-substance ACL failures also occur in this athletic age group. The association of meniscal injuries with these ACL failures appears to be greater than 50%. Historically, poor subjective and objective outcomes have been associated with primary and extra-articular repairs. Intra-articular reconstruction is the gold standard. The issue of placing the graft across open physeal plates is under investigation. Recent animal studies as well as human clinical series have demonstrated safety in placing soft tissue, i.e. hamstring grafts, across open growth plates without subsequent angular or leg length discrepancy. Historically, non-operatively treated ACL failures are associated with poor functional outcomes as well as a high incidence of meniscal re-injury. If the treatment of an adolescent athlete with an ACL failure is to be rehabilitation until skeletal maturity, close follow-up is essential to detect functional instability, which may prompt earlier surgical reconstruction.