This Bfitteens Blog is written by Bridget K. | August 14, 2015
In late May with only 25 seconds into the soccer game, I was running down field just about ready to kick the ball, when an opposing player went for the ball too. Instead of kicking the ball, however, she kicked me on the side of my knee. I heard a POP, and I was down on the field. My leg cramped up and I could not straighten it, nor could I put weight on it. I immediately went to the emergency room.
The next few days were filled with x-rays, an MRI and a consult with an orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Van Thiel at Rockford Orthopedic.
I knew when I heard the POP that is was my ACL right away. I had heard from other soccer players that once you hear a pop – your season is O-V-E-R. And it was for me, too. There are studies and statistics that estimate that ACL tears occur at the rate of about 40 per hour in the United States. Reading this did not really make me feel any better about my situation. But that statistic sounds high.
ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament which is torn by a sudden forceful twist of the knee. The ACL provides the knee with stability during physical activity and the ability to twist and pivot during sports, as well. The ACL is composed of three different ligaments. In most cases, all three ligaments will tear, but in some cases, only one or two ligaments will tear. In my case, all three ligaments tore, as well as my Meniscus.
When the ACL is torn, it looks like a rope when it snaps; the two ends where the break occurs are easily seen as frayed on an MRI. Meniscus tears are very common with torn ACLs, too. The severity of the meniscus tear really ends up regulating the post-surgery recovery. So for me, it meant a longer recovery.
The most disturbing thing I learned about a torn ACL is that there is no way to save the original ACL; you have no choice but to get a graft that is secured by two dissolvable screws. How this is done? Tissue can be taken from your own body, called autograft or from a donor called allograft. The two most common autografts are the patellar tendon graft or the hamstring tendon graft. The other option is the use of cadaver tissue. My surgeon did not really recommend this because it is not the most effective in young athletes. I was happy to hear that. I did not want a cadaver ligament. Doctors are finding that girls who choose to use their patellar tendon have knee pain when they bend down or kneel on that knee later in life. I choose to use my hamstring because I did not want knee pain later in life.
My surgery was six weeks after I tore my ACL. Some research suggests that the best time for ACL surgery repair is within 12 weeks of the injury. I think this is an important thing to discuss with your surgeon on your first visit.
One of the things my surgeon recommended was pre-surgery physical therapy. In physical therapy, I had to work on getting my leg straight and bending it. I also worked on keeping my quad strength by doing squats. I was amazed by how hard it was for me to get my leg completely straight.
I really recommend having a list of questions ready for your surgeon or the physician assistant. I have compiled a few for you:
- How long will I be in a knee immobilizer?
- How long will recovery be?
- Should I do pre-surgery physical therapy?
- How much pain will I have?
- Which replacement ligament do you recommend for me?
- How big will my incision be?
- How long will the surgery last?
- When can I get back to playing my sport?
Next blog I will have some answers to these questions from an orthopedic surgeon. Also, I will give you an update on post-surgery physical therapy and what you can expect. It is a long recovery, but with some motivation tips from me, you will do fine!
Written by Bfitteens Blogger Bridget K.