ACL Repair in young rugby player

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My son, Charlie returned to rugby less than a year after his left ACL repair.

On the 19th of December 2016 Charlie ruptured his ACL skiing back at the end of his second day of the holiday. He is a confident skier and was on a red run he’d skied many times, when his left foot stopped dead having hit a stone, grass or bare patch and he was thrown forward. His ski didn’t release and his knee hyperextended resulting in a snapped ACL.

As I had had an ACL replacement surgery after a skiing accident 6 years earlier I understood the effect of the injury would have on Charlie’s life, as he was a very active sporty child who lived for his rugby and football. We took advice from a family friend who was an orthopaedic surgeon who confirmed that Charlie should consider surgery to give him the best chance of returning to competitive sport. He recommended we see Professor Wilson who explained the options available. One of these options was a ‘repair’ - a relatively new procedure. This appeared to be the least evasive, with shorter recovery time. If this failed the alternative was to harvest a piece of his father’s hamstring to reconstruct his ACL as Charlie’s own harvested hamstring would be unlikely to support him as a young man. 

Prehab, ACL Repair with 'internal brace'

Charlie’s leg had stiffened after the accident and he was struggling to straighten it. It was recommended by Professor Wilson that he worked with a physiotherapist to straighten the leg and loosen it up pre-op. He saw Pippa Rollitt from Richmond Physiotherapy every week who helped him straighten it and build it up ready to operate.

On February 22nd 2017 Professor Wilson repaired Charlie’s ACL, at the Hampshire Clinic in Basingstoke. Pippa Rollitt his physio was invited to watch the operation, giving Charlie and our family great confidence in the team. The operation lasted about two hours. Charlie woke up groggy. His leg was iced - to keep the inflammation down - with a GameReady - a machine that compresses and pumps cold water around a cuff on a timer. Charlie wore the Game Ready for the first four days almost day and night.

Charlie was off school for two and a half weeks, and saw the physio, Pippa, twice a week for this time, reducing to once a week until May.

Removal of internal brace

On the 31st May 2017 Charlie returned to the Hampshire Clinic to have the internal brace removed. The arthroscopy showed it had repaired well and the internal brace was cut to allow normal growth. This was a much quicker operation, done again under general anaesthetic but in and out on the same day.

Charlie continued with his regular physiotherapy - building strength, fitness, coordination until July. He had one set back at a music festival at the end of July jumping onto his brother for a piggy back and landing peculiarly on muddy ground. His knee swelled and was sore for a few days but with ice and rest, then swimming it was soon back to normal.

Charlie built up his fitness through cycling and swimming over the summer holidays and returned to non-contact rugby and non-competitive football in September, building up his fitness and confidence. Charlie returned to competitive rugby and football under the close eye of his physio in October. He was a little cautious to begin with but by the end of the autumn term was playing competitively again and back to winning tournaments - and hasn’t looked back. 

muddy boy
well done
Adrian Wilson

Adrian Wilson

Charlie had an acl repair done by me in February 2017. He is a very active 12 year old lad who had an ACL tear following a skiing injury in Austria in December 2016. He was seen by a well known expert knee surgeon who knew I was carrying out ACL repair and referred him on.

We met in January and Charlie ticked al the boxes for this surgery. He had the right kind of tear and at his age I believe ACL repair is the best way to deal with ACL injuries especially in children.

I carried out the repair in February and he has done very well. He has now got back to rugby and contact sports and the knee feels beautifully stable.

In  my paediatric series of children  who have undergone repair of their ACL using the internal brace technique we have had no failures to date and have good 2 year data. We have had 5% failure in the adult group which is comparable to the traditional ACL reconstruction surgery failure rate. This is really very exciting and I have really enjoyed presenting this work around the globe at the various knee meetings I have been invited to talk at.

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