Ricky: Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury

“We are so grateful for the wonderful experience we had at Nemours. It was so convenient! We highly recommend Nemours to everyone.”

— Bernadette, Mother

While riding at a local dirt bike track, Ricky took a hard landing and immediately experienced severe pain in his knee, which became swollen within minutes and he was unable to put weight on it. His mother, Bernadette, took him to a nearby hospital. They diagnosed Ricky’s injury as a sprain. Bernadette’s intuition, however, told her it was something more severe. She made an appointment at a Nemours Children's location in Deptford, N.J., where they offer pediatric specialty care including sports medicine. There, an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test showed a tear of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and cartilage injury.

Expert Diagnosis, Surgery and Therapy Under One Roof

Ricky was seen by Dr. Alvin Su, a sports medicine surgeon who is also dual-trained in pediatric orthopedics. Dr. Su explains why sports medicine made all the difference in this case. “This type of injury, whether it occurs from falling off a bike or during sports, may look like a sprain when it is actually something more severe. Being able to quickly detect the difference is why seeing a sports medicine specialist can be beneficial.”

Dr. Su says that the ACL, “is a crucial ligament used to stabilize the knee when playing sports. Since we are born with only one ACL in each knee, once it is torn, the knee destabilizes. Further activity can create further damage around the unstable joint. We determined the best plan would be a reconstructive surgery of a new ACL using Ricky’s own tissue from his knee.”

Intense, One-on-One Physical Therapy and Ricky’s Amazing Recovery

After surgery, Ricky had physical therapy twice a week for three months. Amazingly, after six months, he was cleared for normal activities. According to Dr. Su, “While Ricky recovered ahead of schedule, we advise teenagers to wait nine months before returning to full-contact competitions to lower the risk of future injury.”

Ricky’s recovery could be attributed to all of the skilled care in one location. Said Dr. Su: “I think a big advantage is that we have everything under one roof — with 20 different specialists, medical imaging, a surgical suite and physical therapy specializing in young athletes. We communicate with each other daily.”

In other facilities, patients are often shuffled from one place to another for diagnosis, then to another office to meet a surgeon, and then to another place for PT. All of them often get their information from letters or faxes, which risks miscommunication and creates a burden on the patient and family. Here, we’re in the same building, working together to deliver comprehensive, highly personalized care.”

Back in the Saddle

Ricky’s mother is quite pleased with his recovery, as is his surgeon, Dr. Su. “We love seeing patients like Ricky recover quickly. I believe that it all starts with an accurate diagnosis and a sports medicine team that understands the psyche of active kids, their competitive spirit and how important it is for them to get back to doing what they love to do. For Ricky, that’s back to dirt bike racing.”