ACL Journey: Day -16

Yeah. Day -16; I’m a little over two weeks away from my ACL surgery. “What surgery” you say? You didn’t know I was injured. Well I guess I’m going to have to correct that misconception.

Yeah, I’m hurt. In a major way. The diagnosis is a completely torn ACL, and a couple of major tears of the mensicus. I suspect the tears are a result of continuing to play over a long span of time without an ACL. In short, my diagnosis is long and grueling rehab followed later in life by early arthritis of the left knee.

Strangely enough, though, I’m one of the few who can function relatively well without an intact ACL, and I think I’ve been doing it for six years—playing soccer for many of them—which is why I never quite realized it was my ACL that was torn. I’ve had continuing problems with that knee since my initial injury, but I’ve always been able to bounce back relatively easily. I suspect that each time I injured my knee over those six years I was tearing that cartilage just a little bit more.

This last time, August of 2008, I was on a breakaway. The goalie had passed a long ball to a defender at the centerline—a mistake, because the defender had his back to me. As the ball sailed through the air, I figured I could beat this guy to the ball and he would never catch me on my way to the net. Easy goal.

I head to the net and need to cut to my right to outfox the goalie—a good one by the way—but on my way my left knee extends straight out and pop—PAIN—I roll, don’t know what happens to the ball, but action stops.

That’s it I’m done for a few months.

Usually I’d be back to some activity relatively quickly. This time, though, extensive pain lingered in my knee for about four months. I said to hell with this. I need to fix this thing now.

Well, here I am and I’m nervous about the upcoming surgery, but many people go through this and come out all right as elite athletes. I’m no elite athlete, but I’ll be all right in my rec leagues. Perhaps better than I’ve been in a long time. I just need to lose weight again to get my speed and agility back as well as help prevent re-injury.

The only question I have is: which ligament should I harvest? Patellar or hamstring?

I’m leaning patellar, simply because it is the tried and true method as well as the one least likely to develop laxity as I heal because the ends of the tendon are attached to bone and inserted that way and held in place with interference screws; the hamstring tendon is simply inserted and held in place with interference screws and because the attachment isn’t as strong initially, the harvested tendon can slip past the screws a little bit causing laxity in the new ligament.

Obviously bone to bone is ideal for healing, which is why the patellar tendon is so strong initially. This will allow me to get back to regular activity a little faster and hopefully make the joint stronger when I eventually return to soccer.

Anyway, I’ll update here on my progress as I can.