Getting Peyton Back on the Field After an ACL Tear

As Peyton went in for the tackle, she could feel that something had gone wrong. Thankfully, her mother knew just where to take her to start her recovery.

Peyton Thomas with pediatric orthopedic surgeon after acl surgery

Peyton is competitive. So when she tried out for a new club soccer team, she gave it her all. While she slid into a tackle, her right foot got caught in the ground, hyperextending her knee.

“I felt it crack, and I heard it crack,” says Peyton. She walked off the field and sat down to rest, icing her knee and waiting nervously. After practice, her mom, Imani Thomas, brought her to an urgent care facility for X-rays. While they didn’t see any initial concerns, the doctor recommended she follow up with a pediatric orthopedist.

Peyton’s family knew exactly where they’d take her: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. The previous year, Peyton’s older sister Paige had received excellent treatment for an ankle fracture there.

The pediatric orthopedic surgeon ordered an MRI for Peyton. The scan showed that Peyton had a complete tear of her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). She also had tears in her medial and lateral meniscus.

A common affliction

Peyton’s doctor, Crystal Perkins, MD, sees a lot of ACL tears among teen female athletes. “ACL injuries occur in females two to three times more frequently than in males,” she says. “There are multiple theories for this, including different jumping and landing mechanics, the effects of hormones on ligaments, and anatomical differences.”

Peyton’s care team reconstructed her right knee ACL, trimmed the medial meniscus tear and repaired the lateral meniscus tear. Afterward, she wore a brace for approximately four weeks and used crutches to get around.

“It wasn’t easy at all,” Imani says. “None of this has been very easy for her.”

Ensuring a lasting recovery

To build back her strength, Peyton began sports physical therapy immediately after her treatment. She attended sessions twice a week to improve her knee motion and build muscle.

“At Children’s, we have a detailed protocol to help ensure the highest-quality outcomes are achieved after ACL reconstruction,” says Dr. Perkins. “This includes a special set of tests and measurements called functional testing that is performed six months after surgery to assess a patient’s strength, jumping and landing mechanics, and ability to begin a gradual return to sport progression.”

Dr. Perkins added that where you take your child or teenager for care of her orthopedic injury matters. “The anatomy and demands of growing children are far different from middle-age athletes, and care specifically catered to their growing bodies is essential to their treatment and return to sports.”

An environment of support

Throughout Peyton’s treatment, her family has felt the support and care of the Children’s team. “They have been helpful and transparent with Peyton’s progress,” Imani said. “Everyone is really nice, and we are all working together to get her back to 100%.”

All of the encouragement has allowed Peyton to shine through the healing process. “She’s had a really positive attitude through this whole thing,” Imani says. “It’s been kind of an emotional roller coaster, but she’s handled it really well. She’s just amazing doing what she has to do to get back on the field.”

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