Learn how to prepare your teen for anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.

Any kind of surgery can be scary for kids–and surgery resulting from a sports injury is no exception. Unfortunately, an ACL tear is a common sports injury and female athletes are 4-6 times more likely to experience one. ACL surgery requires follow up with physical therapy and the use of crutches, so it’s especially important for parents and doctors to appropriately counsel a teen on what to expect.

Go over the procedure in detail
Ask your teen’s doctors for pamphlets and handouts to help explain ACL surgery. Teens are old enough to be informed in detail, including risks. Explain that the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is found in the knee and is one of the major ligaments connecting the thigh bone to the shin bone. Be sure to share that surgery is the only way to keep the knee stable again. It’s important to establish trust with your child by being upfront and clear about aspects of ACL surgery that may be painful, such as the initial recovery. Ask your teen’s doctor if photos or video of the procedure will be available to share after the surgery. Talk about aftercare, including time spent on crutches and physical therapy.

Soothe your teen’s fears
The risks of surgery may give your teen feelings of anxiety. Talk to her about stress management techniques like light exercise, stretching and meditation. Let your teen know that her doctor has performed ACL surgery many, many times in the past. While it’s a serious surgery, it’s very common and has been well-researched and documented. Remind your teen how much better she’ll feel after recovery.

Focus on your teen’s responsibilities
According to Medline Plus, therapy after ACL surgery can last 2-6 months. Most patients should not expect to return to sports for 6-9 months. It may be challenging for a teen to meet PT appointments and follow up with the appropriate exercises and aftercare at home. Remind your teen frequently about two very important points:

  1. Physical therapy is critical for preventing reinjury and restoring the knee's function.
  2. The more dedicated your teen is to physical therapy, the better and faster the injury will heal.

It is important that your teen focuses on obtainable goals set throughout recovery in order to see her progress and commit to the long-term benefits.

At North Hills Hospital, we have therapists on staff designated as Orthopedic Certified Specialists; only 3% of Texas therapists have achieved this designation. In fact, one of our therapists has completed specialty training in ACL injury prevention and rehabilitation. Find out more about our experienced staff of therapists, surgeons and the services we provide here. For a physician referral, please call 1-855-5NHILLS.

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