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Children are not little adults – we recommend they see an orthopedic specialist who knows a child's bone structure and growth plates.

An anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear is a common knee injury treated in our sports medicine clinics.

An ACL tear can happen because of:

  • Stopping suddenly while running
  • Slowing down while running
  • Changing directions quickly while running
  • Jumping or landing incorrectly
  • Contact injuries, such as a football tackle
  • Overuse of the leg for jumping, running, twisting or pivoting

It is common for a child with an anterior cruciate ligament tear to hear a pop or for their knee to give out when the injury happens. Pain and swelling are very common after an ACL injury.

ACL injuries generally occur in teenage athletes and are much less common in younger children. Sometimes, another knee injury will happen at the same time as the ACL injury.

Appointments for anterior cruciate ligament injuries begin with a history and physical exam. Our doctors need to learn how an injury happened before deciding on a care plan. During the first visit, your doctor will look at the injury and test range of motion to see how well the arms or legs can move.

Radiology and rehabilitation are important for ACL injury care. At Shriners Children’s we offer both, allowing convenient back-to-back appointments for our patients. X-rays or other images may be needed to help the doctor decide how to best treat the anterior cruciate ligament injury.


Treatment for your child’s ACL injury will depend on the injury. Treatment options will be discussed at your appointment.

Young athletes will likely need surgery to return to sports safely. The type of surgery usually performed is arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure that allows patients to recover quickly.

Non-surgical treatment, such as avoiding activity and bracing may be recommended for patients who are still growing and have been less seriously injured.

Physical therapy is an important treatment for all sports injuries, especially anterior cruciate ligament tears. Our on-site physical therapists work with patients and families to create custom rehabilitation plans and goals. Physical therapy is typically recommended for both surgical and non-surgical patients.

Specific treatments and services may vary by location. Please contact a specific location for more information.

A child's injuries are significantly different than an adult's due to having open growth plates. It is important for a child to be treated differently than adults, which is why we feel strongly that they should see a pediatric orthopedic specialist.
Michael Priola, D.O., Shriners Children's Twin Cities
children playing football

Sports Medicine for Children

Whether playing on the sports field, exercising, or on the playground, children sometimes get hurt. At Shriners Children’s, we specialize in pediatric bones, joints and muscles. We understand the effects of injuries on growing bones, growth plates and soft tissues. We are experienced with easing health care anxiety and move at a pace that is comfortable and reassuring for all members of the family. Our ultimate goal is to get children back to what they love quickly and safely.

Next Steps

Request an Appointment

Families and caregivers seeking treatment should start by contacting us for an appointment.

Log in to the Patient Portal

Parents and guardians of existing patients can email, request records, schedule appointments and more.

Refer a Patient

Physicians and healthcare providers can request appointments, start transfers or contact us with questions.