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Last May I was playing soccer at a local indoor arena. During the course of a game, I planted my right foot and turned to my left. I heard a sharp pop, my knee buckled, and I collapsed. The pain was unbearable. After several attempts to get up, I was carried off the field and given an ice pack. I tried to go back on the field, but I couldn’t seem to put any weight on the knee. So I limped out to the parking lot and drove home.

That night, my knee was feeling better so I started to hobble around the house. I seemed to be improving and the ice (and beer) was certainly helping. Late that night, I stood up out of a chair and the pain exploded from me knee. I saw stars. I was nauseated by the pain. I gasped for breath. Then I noticed I was lying on the ground. My wife says I screamed. It was then I decided to visit the doctor.

A few xrays showed that there was nothing wrong, but my doctor suspected ligament damage in the knee, so he sent me to an orthopedic specialist. As I waited in the examining room, I saw from the pictures on the walls that the specialist is a soccer player and plays at the arena where I hurt my knee.

After asking me what happened, the doctor grabbed my knee, twisted it into some contortions, pushed, probed, and looked for expressions of pain on my face. He saw many, I’m sure. After the exam the verdict was a torn ACL.

The ACL is a ligament inside your knee that holds the two halves of your leg together. Without it, your leg moves like a broken hinge. It bends in strange ways. There’s nothing to keep it from bending slightly sideways or from shearing front to back. Your knee pops and shifts and dislocates as you walk. And each of those abnormal movements hurt—a lot.

At first I was placed in a full leg brace that immobilized the knee. The contraption reached from my ankle to mid-thigh. After a couple of weeks the swelling went down and I was able to take the brace off. Now I can walk without the brace, but if I’m going to be doing any real activity I need to wear a smaller brace that just covers the knee. It has hinges and straps and hydraulics. Okay, so it doesn’t have hydraulics, but that would be cool, wouldn’t it?

The ACL is stretched tight, like a rubber band. When it tears, the two halves separate completely and can not be reattached. To repair the damage, they replace the ligament, either with a donor ligament from a cadaver or with a portion of one of your other ligaments.

The surgery is in a few weeks and I’m getting a bit nervous. I’ve never done anything like this before. I still have my tonsils, my wisdom teeth, and I have no cavities or fillings. I have no point of reference at all for what goes on in a surgical environment. An anesthesiologist friend of mine says that the surgery will last 3-5 hours. That seems like a long time to be under.

May 28, 2008 9:41 AM

Hi, I am 13. i tore my acl while playing soccer. I feel really depressed because I LOVE sports specially soccer and skateboarding and I don't know when I will be able to play again (I play competitive soccer). They say that about the surgery is very hard because I still havent had my growth spurt so the surgery can harm my growth plat, but probably we will find some surgeon with experience in teen surgery. After that I don't know how long until I can go back playing. I am not the kind of guy that enjoy taking things easy or going soft. Please if you can give me some answers. Joseph

June 17, 2008 3:15 PM

Hey everyone!!! Thank you for your helpful comment. It's good to know that one's not alone. Hope this helps. I fell on my knee hard on my concrete patio while hanging pottery in my back yard 8 months ago! I broke my leg and my doctor said I have an ACL injury too. I'm a young 43 and exercised regularly lifting weights too. I had surgery which included rods and pins in my lower leg. I have been undergoing serious and extremly painful PT (screaming like a baby) since then and I am still limping severly and still in need of therapy. I probably won't be able to walk smoothly again until next year! My bones pop and grind around my knee too and its hard to straighten my leg out. My doctor found out I was walking on a bent knee for months!! I was in a wheelchair for about 2 months then walker, crutches, and now I'm on and off the cane. So don't feel so bad about your injury. It could be much worse. However God did bless me to be able to slow-dance on my recent 25th wed anniversary! Thank God that you're young or better off. I've been praying that I will be able to walk without limping sometime in the near future so I can better spread the good news of Christ. My hope is in God, yours should be too. Follow the doctors instructions and lean on God. God bless. Jesus is really all that matters. Hopefully you'll find that out sooner rather than later before your life on earth has expired. Keep your head heaven. PEACE!

July 30, 2008 8:52 PM

My daughter is 13 1/2, just tore her acl playing soccer, and like everyone else at this age, she is supposed to wait for her growth plates to come together. We are trying to figure out the best, and safest way to get her back on the field as soon as possible. Does anyone have any suggestions? If she waits for 6 months to a year to have surgery, and then another year to recover, that's a very long time to wait, especially in the life of a adolescent. Does anybody use the medical knee braces to play in before the surgery? Any specific knowlwedge or experience would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

August 13, 2008 6:29 PM

Hi Mitch- Our daughter also tore her ACL playing soccer. Soccer has been her life since she was 4. We opted to wait to have the adult ACL repair instead of the Kiddie ACL repair. She has been going to PT and passed all the test to begin running, juggling, and shooting. She has a brace and she will be able to play in September. We are not sure how it will go. However, she does know that she will have to have the surgery as soon as her growth plates come together. Her doctor said he would do an MRI every 6 months to see when she can have the surgery. I don't know if playing is the right decision. However, I think for her it is because she loves the game.

August 18, 2008 3:26 PM

My 16 year old daughter (15 at the time of surgery) had ACL reconstruction this past December. She was back out on the soccer field playing in July, full speed again. She currently wears the Don Joy Defiance brace (and will for an entire year). It gives her the mobility she needs and still gives her the support and protection she needs as well. She used her own hamstring for replacement and went through months of physical therapy. It was painful, but she loves soccer so much, that she really did everything she was told to do. Her recovery was faster than her Dr. thought, she was ready to play with in 5 months, however we made her wait and rehabilitate longer, to be on the safe side. Doing Physical therapy before surgery to have full ROM and build quad strengh definitely worked in her favor. As well, immediately after surgery we used Polar ice and a CPM machine. She started Physical therapy again a week after surgery.

October 22, 2008 9:24 PM

Hi i'm 19 and i tore my ACL two years ago in my senior year of high school due to soccer. Here's a little short story about it.I am very athletic and played sports all year round ever since i was 7.I was contending to be one of the top 10 goalies in the Atlantic Coast League (ACL)..isn't that ironic?.. Anyways my senior year first game of the season 20min into the first half i ran out for the ball it was in the box and a forward was coming at it too full speed.Now i thought i could get to it first but, turns out i was wrong..well kind of.I did get to it first but, she was already to close to run off of the ball so she plowed right into me when all my body weight was on one leg(my right).She ended up blowing my whole knee right out of the side of my leg and i colapsed to the ground in the worst pain ive ever felt and ive had over 15 injuries. I went right to the hospital from the game because it blew up like a balloon and from there i was sent to an orthopedic out of that hospital.I ended up being misdiagnosed for just a dolocated knee cap and did 2 months of PT and passed everything and i was runing again.First day back to practiced it poped out again so my coach was certain it was my ACL and wanted me to see a new doctor.Well my ortho wasn't too happy about that and wrote my coach a letter assuring that it was my knee cap. It kept happening as the season finished up so my coach only played me for the final 5 min. in some games because it was my senior ear and he felt but, couldn't watch me suffer in pain anymore.We made it to the tournament and i never got to play in any tournament games because they couldn't take the risk of lossing or me getting anymore hurt.I knew i wouldn't be able to play any other sports my senior year for the first time EVER i wasn't going to play sports year round.I played in an alumni soccer game that same year in the summer and 2 min in i punted the ball out came down on the one leg and it just folded. I went to a different hospital that night they thought it was my MCL they reffered me to a different orthopedic and he othorized an MRI that night and it came back that i had completley torn my ACL and it was a fresh tare.I lost my spot to play D2 soccer in college on pretty much a full ride.I ended up going to a local college and because of first semester i wasn't able to get surgery till christmas break.I got it on Dec.28,2007..they used my patella tendon to replace it and put a couple screws in my leg. I sliped in and out of conciousness all night after surgery so i was admited over night and spiked a high fever so i was on watch all the next day.Then i was about to leave and they took my blood preasure and it had dropped dramatically so i was admitted another night.Usually though its a one day process i just happened to be unlucky.After the second day i went home got perks for pain killers and a CPM machine was sent to my house. The michine is used to slowly bend your knee and get it used to moving again with the new ACL and to help prevent scare tissue.It hurts at first but, sooner or later it starts to hurt to be off of it and you gradually kick up the degrees and speed that your knee goes.I lost about 20 pounds after surgery because the medicine makes you feel loopy and sick and you dont feel like eating.I had lost all muscle mass in my leg but, you gain it back very quickly once you start moving around. I started PT a week after for 4-5 months and it was painfull at first but, it gets soooo much easier and you feel like a million bucks after every visit. I ended up not being able to go back to school second semester because it took me a little longer then usual to recover.You can start runing again 6 months after surgery and play physical activities 9 months after.You also get the brace to help protect your knee when playing sports or runing or what have you and you have to wear it for a year. I just reached my 9 months in sept. and i'm happy to say im back at full speed and playing anything i want without hesitation.I may have lost the D2 spot on the team but, i'm happy to have my leg back to normal.Iit's made me believe if i can suffer through the pain of playing a year with it torn then i can go through the pain of getting back in awsome shape and proove i can still take the spot back from any other girl or, who knows maybe even play D1.All i have left from that incident now is a desent scare down the middle of my knee two very small pinhole scares and a couple screws in my knee.

October 27, 2008 7:47 PM

I am a skateboarder i am 14 i fell about a month ago it hurts when i skate,go up steps,sit down for a long time it pops when i extend my leg i think i tore something can anybody tell me what it is

December 11, 2008 6:05 PM

im 15 years old..i was playing basketball..jump landed and bam out went my knee. i was on the ground screaming in pain. i had people help me walk off the floor and i cant walk at all. if i try walking, i fall over so i gotta use crutches. i went to the doctors and he said he is pretty sure that i tore my acl. i get my MRI monday. but the first two days, i couldnt move my leg what so ever or my knee would kill. but now i can move it sideways. but i cant bend my leg back or keep it straight,. it has to be bent in a certain way. but i play basketball, and run cross country and track. i am very dedicated to my sports, and i love them. without sports, it basically ruins my life. recovery will take forever and i just wanna get back to my sports. if you have any suggestions or anythin, please let me know.

March 25, 2009 7:03 PM

I am 23 years old and recently tore my Acl playing indoor soccer. I have been playing for 10 years and i am very active. I am very confused on wheather or not i should get surgery. It's been 2 months now and I am able to walk normally and do everyday activities, but i miss soccer. I am currently doing PT and have regained almost full ROM. The doctor told me that i can choose not to get surgery if i am willing to give up soccer, and i am not sure if i am ready to do that. Has anyone succesfully played soccer with a torn ACL and no surgery?

April 24, 2009 7:27 PM

I am 18 years old I recently tore my Acl playing soccer last month. i am playin college soccer so this surgery was neccesarry. yesterday i had surgery and I had to stay over night. I got a Hamstring Graft which i highly recommend because it keeps up better than the pattelar tendon. When you go in for anestisia ask for a nerve block it is probally the easiest and less painfull thing. I felt no pain overnight cause the block was very helpful. Take the painkillers right before bed evern if you arnt hurting. Just go with wat the doctor says which is most improtant. I have to inject myself with a shot every day for 2 weeks now to prevent blood clots in my leg cause i have a family history. Dont take morphine use the nerve block instead for the anistesia. Ull be asking the nurse for morphine every hour after the surgery. if you have any questions feel free to write on this blog i would be honored to help any 1. I am on medication now i need to fall asleep thats my only problem ive been having but itll be ok 2 morrow/

September 29, 2009 5:54 PM

i am 17 and i've torn my ACL three times now... the same one. i tore it first playing soccer, then i had surgery and tried to play volleyball and it tore again. i had the second surgery and got a fancy Don Joy brace and went out for volleyball again and it tore... while i was wearing the brace. i am currently playing highschool volleyball with a torn ACL, because there is no way that we could afford a third surgery. i am also contemplating playing soccer this spring... i am not sure if i should or not though.

October 7, 2009 11:32 AM

Abby, which ACL surgery did you have; the one using your patellar tendon, hamstring tendon, or a cadaver graft? My daughter tore her ACL a year ago and used her patellar tendon to reconstruct her ACL. This worked very well and she returned to playing soccer. However, she just tore the ACL on her other knee and I was just wondering if the other surgery options worked well for teenagers who have gone back to playing sports.

October 21, 2009 7:23 PM

found out i RUPTURED my ACL and have complex tear of the medial meniscus. Off to reconstructive surgery 11/11. I was told there is no set time frame for complete rehab. this is so stressful and fear the pain.

Adam Kalsey
October 21, 2009 7:37 PM

Ter, most people find that it takes 6-9 months before they feel fully recovered. You'll be out of a brace and walking normally in 2-3 months, but full activity probably won't be possible for at least 6 months.

February 1, 2010 4:18 AM

hi everyone, im a 45 young year old and i tore my acl a year ago. and i still havent had my surgery. im actually afraid too. i dont know. but i dont want to wind up cripple. and i miss wearing my cute hi heels. and it has made me feel bitter and depressed. should i just have the surgery..but what if it doesnt work and then next a knee replacement or ill walk with a limp everyday...I have been doing my own PT and im doing well, my knee gets painful but it has been functioning pretty good. but i do miss running real fast and pivoting im an active me out somebody...or say a prayer for me...and ps..does it leave an ugly scar on your pretty legs...??? argghh.

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