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Old 02-11-2014   #1
St. Anthony, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2000
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 18
ACL Reconstruction Experience

I found a few great threads about ACL injuries in the forum archive, however I have a couple questions that I couldn't find answers to there:

I'm looking for some opinions from those who chose to either have the surgery done or go another route, like muscle strengthening. I am currently able to run, bike, rock climb, and XC ski, but I don't feel stable enough to mountaineer, skate ski, downhill ski or play basketball. I worry about post surgery osteoarthritis and the risk of my bones being weaker after being drilled into. I only have a partial tear of the ACL.

It's very hard to find people who are living with a reconstructed ACL for 20+ years. Most of the people I know have only had their ACL replaced less than 3 years ago. I'm in my mid 20's and am considering the long-term consequences of my options.

Thanks everyone,
Also, I'm getting a second opinion from a different Dr. soon.

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Old 02-11-2014   #2
Edmond, Oklahoma
Paddling Since: 1988
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 55
i tore my acl and partially tore my mcl,plc and lcl in 1997. also had a full upper gastric tear(calf muscle). my leg was pretty traumatized and bleeding internally. dr chipman in vail did the reconstruction and promised my knee would be 220% better. i did about a full year of hard rehab and its been perfect since. no problems.

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Old 02-12-2014   #3
Eagle, Idaho
Paddling Since: 2005
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 138
I am 6 years out from ACL reconstruction (cadavar tendon). I can tell you that this knee (my left) is far stronger, more stable, and less painful than my other knee, which has had 3 meniscus procedures done. Do your PT and you won't regret it.
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Old 02-12-2014   #4
Old Guy in a PFD
Tucson, Arizona
Paddling Since: 1967
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 1,022
My daughter had an ACL repair in 2001; a gymnastics injury when she was 16.
She had issues with rejection of the screws and a "minor" infection that could have killed her and came close to taking her entire leg. 10 days in the hospital, 8 surgeries to clean it all out, and 3 months of intensive home care. I mean that infection was a bitch to get rid of.

Once we got past that adventure she killed the rehab and felt her knee was stronger than before and she was ready for a new gymnastics season.

First vault of the year she blew it out again, ending her career.

In retrospect, I think the Dr. messed up the repair; I mean, she was religious with the rehab and was very fit going into it.

The second repair was handled by another doctor who never said it, but I got the idea that he wasn't impressed by the first repair. Those guys tend to stick together.

She now considers running 16 miles to be slacking off, and says the knee is just fine.

Moral of the story; love your doctor, and do NOT slack on keeping the wound clean until it heals completely. And yes, rehab is a bitch but it's the key to a good outcome.
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Old 02-12-2014   #5
Edmond, Oklahoma
Paddling Since: 1988
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 55
the warnings were...
the screw might cause pain and have to be extracted.
you might have a scar tissue growth that needs to be surgically removed.
this is what inspired me to force my heel to my butt.daily!
this surgery was done 17 years ago and my knee is sic good.
i dont speak up much, but...mad props to dr chipman in vail. he is so f-dialed. i would not have anyone else touch my knees.
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Old 02-12-2014   #6
dirtbagkayaker's Avatar
Bazzaro, World
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,326
I have left knee damage. They did an MRI and the whole deal. Dr says the lcl, mcl, and acl are torn. But he could not be 100% on damage without going in and said that one of the three could heal itself?? Don't really know what that means. This happened in 97ish. I elected to not have the repair. Now my wife blew out her mcl, acl skiing 5 years ago. She had surgery by the same dr that does Gonzaga basketball player in Spokane WA.

My knee is not 100% but it doesn't seem to stop me from much. My wife bitches all the time about how bad her knee is. My cuzin did an MCL around 94 and he says his knee still sucks.

I recently read and article that stated that over 50% of all people who have had knee surgery would not do it if they had it all to do over again. If I can find it I'll post it.

With all of that said, I think out come has more to do with mind set. Surgery or muscle build will both work if you do the things that need to be done. If you just walk away from surgery and expect your knee to be good, that wont happen. You need to rehab for the rest of your life. The same goes for muscle build. Its a life long journey. That my take.

With the partial tear I'd work on muscle and see how it goes. Good Luck.
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Old 02-12-2014   #7
cataraftgirl's Avatar
Sandy, Utah
Paddling Since: 1997
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Posts: 3,121
Originally Posted by dirtbagkayaker View Post
I recently read and article that stated that over 50% of all people who have had knee surgery would not do it if they had it all to do over again. If I can find it I'll post it.
This really resonates with me. Not an ACL, but I had a total knee replacement three years ago. Worst mistake of my life. I went into it as a strong, healthy, active person with a sore knee. I picked a top Doctor with a great reputation. What I got was three years of rehab, pain, and problems. Every person I knew who had a knee replacement had great results, but there are no guarantees with any knee surgery. I sure wish I could turn back time and try anything else to improve my knee before having surgery.
"We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love....and then we return home."
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Old 02-13-2014   #8
pnw, Washington
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,404
20+ years since my ACL repair. Left knee fixed with patella splice. Rehab was long and regaining flexibility in that leg was tough but I am happy that I did it. 20 years of biking, etc and some minor arthritis is creeping in but i dont have many joints that arent so I dont think that the ACL tear/fix was a part of that. Any particulars, just ask and I will help all I can.
"Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself." -Rumi
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Old 02-22-2014   #9
Denver, Colorado
Paddling Since: 2006
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 4

My brother tore his ACL on March 28th 2009 while skiing. He claimed it was a classic "POP". He was woking in a job w/o health insurance and put off the surgery. One year later while paying in a turkey day flag football game he jumped for a pass and tore the MCL. He was unable to walk at that time. We met with Dr. Parker in Denver (affiliated with the Avalanche and Nuggets) and with in a few seconds of touching the knee he knew what was wrong. Confirmed with MRI, and surgery was scheduled. At the time he was 24 and the good Dr. recommended to use his hamstring rather than a cadaver achilles.

I asked the question about rehab in place of surgery and the Doctor looked at me like I was crazy. He said that at his age he could likely get most of the strength back for a few years with PT, but that would quickly deteriorate as he got older. This in turn would make the eventual surgery significantly harder on the knee and my brother.

He has a few bumps in the road with rehab heated to his sensitive stomach to the painkillers but is back to all the activities he enjoyed prior to the surgery. He is much more aware of the knee, but claims it is mostly mental.

I agree with some of the prior post about getting the right doctor and committing to the PT.

I have the surgery photos from the inside on hard copy I will try and get them up. Hart to tell whats what in some of them it was a mess in his knee.
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Old 02-22-2014   #10
lhowemt's Avatar
at my house, Montana
Paddling Since: 2020
Join Date: Apr 2007
Posts: 4,347
Blew my back Jan 11, 1988. Tried for 2 months to strengthen, but it kept failing. Had an "experimental" repair using poly pro and patella. Most of those failed but mine has not. Had it cleaned up twice since, cartilage cleanup, and two MCL tears/partial tears which heal on their own. This knee has been beat up and it causes me a lot of pain. Doc says he wouldn't think there is an acl in there except that both knees are loose. I don't ski so much anymore and quit running after my third surgery.

My husband had a hamstring repair 4 years ago. Rehab was tough and I would not do a hamstring.

I would definitely do my repair again. I skied and played HARD until maybe 5 years ago. I thought it was knee and other pain that slowed me down but now I know it was another health condition. I stay strong and my knee does nearly everything I ask but it does hate dangling off chairlifts-skis are so darn heavy! I would not forego surgery if it is limiting my activities. It sounds like you have tried and it hasn't worked. My reasoning is expecting that it will eventually tear and mess up another season. At least now you can plan the repair.

I am blown away by people that ski full on without an acl. Great for them, but I am sure that could never be me.

I also think there is a greater arthritis risk without repair? I am not sure about that at all, but all of us ACL prople are at greater risk for arthritis in the knee. I would also be concerned about additional cartilage damage as the years go by without it.

With a partial tear? That is tough. They never know until they are in there.

Good luck.

I am a river, babe - I've got plenty of time, I don't know where I'm going, I'm just following the lines..... - "We are water" by Shaye
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