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Knee problems in children

Knee problems in children and young people

As children become more involved in extreme sports such as skiing and snowboarding and are generally more active at a younger age, Professor Adrian Wilson and his team are seeing increasing cases of ligament damage, particularly to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). As children’s bones and ligaments are not yet fully developed, they are at greater risk of damage.

The Children’s Knee Clinic is a specialist unit within The Portland Hospital dedicated solely to the diagnosis and management of knee problems in children, with a specialist focus on ligament injuries in children and young people. They share a passion for addressing the current epidemic of knee ligament injuries being suffered by children.

The team also treats all other knee problems in children such as osteochondritis.

Max Burns playing rugby

Max’s multi-ligament surgery story

“Max’s recovery has been outstanding so far and there is no doubt that this was due to the early and highly skilful intervention by Professor Wilson.” Sarah, Max’s mum.

Ligament problems in children and young people

Damage to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is the most frequently seen injury in children and young people and is accelerating rapidly year on year, for a variety of reasons.

The ACL is the largest ligament in the knee and controls the back and forth motion of the knee, along with the less commonly injured posterior cruciate ligament (PCL), which helps give stability.

If the ACL is torn or ruptured, the knee becomes unstable when it is twisted and can give way, as well as losing its full range of movement. As the knee gives way, the delicate structures inside it, as well as the joint surface and meniscal cartilages, may also be damaged.

Adrian has pioneered a number of new procedures for treating ACL injuries in children and, in some cases, it may now be possible to re-attach the torn ligament using keyhole surgery. Traditionally, ACL surgery meant a recovery time of up to a year, whereas these new procedures have reduced this to around four months. New techniques also minimise the risk of growth disturbance which is a major concern when operating on young children.

Ligament repair is usually easier to do in the first 6 – 8 weeks following an injury, although in some cases repairs have been carried out up to 10 years later.

It is widely recognised that up to 95% of ACL and PCL tears in young children are repairable. A neglected ACL or PCL injury results in altered biomechanics of the knee and an increased risk of secondary arthrosis in the long term.

ACL / PCL injuries in children

Life changing knee surgery for 14-year-old Jake

Jake’s treatment journey for complex rotational knee problems.


This group of conditions, which causes pain and disability, affects the growing skeleton of a child or adolescent and the surfaces of the joints (cartilage) in the knee. The diseases interrupt the blood supply to a bone which results in bone death (necrosis) and later regrowth of the bone.

Knee consultants

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