ACL tears that undergo delayed intervention can lead to further cartilage and meniscus damage. Although many such injuries eventually earn a referral for orthopedic knee surgery, it’s not unusual for kids and their parents to wait several weeks to see how the healing process is going on its own. ACL tears don’t heal. The inflammation that is caused by an injury may improve. But the athlete remains indefinitely vulnerable to recurrent episodes of knee instability. The knee repeatedly giving out puts the young athlete at risk of further damage with meniscus tears and cartilage loss.
Now researchers think too much caution may be unwise:
Compared to children who had surgery within six weeks, those who had surgery six to 12 weeks after their ACL injury were 45 percent more likely to have a lateral meniscus injury – on the outside of the knee – and those waiting more than 12 weeks were almost three times more likely to have a lateral meniscus tear.
Children who waited at least six weeks for surgery were about four times more likely to have a medial meniscus tear – on the inside of the knee – than those who had prompt treatment, Anderson said.
It is a stark finding, but one which makes sense on its surface: when trauma occurs, often the best chance to reverse its potentially ongoing damage is to hasten the repair process right away.
If you or your child has suffered an ACL tear, I recommend seeing an expert San Diego orthopedic surgeon sooner rather than later. The longevity of your knee may be at risk.