You find yourself on the floor unsure of how you got there. All you know is that you heard a pop sound and you fell to the ground. It takes a few seconds to realize that the sound came from your knee and you have a feeling the pain is about to start. You haven’t heard that pop ever before but it can’t be good, can it?
Soon the swelling will kick in and attempting to walk on the leg might feel unstable (if you can walk). Still worried about the pop, you head to the hospital where they tell you you’ve torn your ACL and you’ll probably need surgery.
You’re still confused as to how it happened because you were by yourself. Was it spontaneous? Did I trip on something? Do I need the surgery?
ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears are very common. Unfortunately, many of them happen without any impact or trauma (“spontaneous”). These types of situations may be prevented and that’s always best to avoid long injury recovery times. It’s very hard to prevent someone from falling on your knee or getting tripped and falling in a weird position.
In most cases, you’ll have surgery suggested. This is especially the case if you’re planning on being active. Not everyone goes through with the surgery, and they are able to continue their activity. This is where it makes us question the surgery, and it’s hard to take a firm stance on if it’s worth going through with it or not.
The main question is what could happen in the future?
Does this mean more arthritis unless you get the surgery? Or will arthritis happen no matter what? Will the leg always be unstable?
The few articles I’ve found suggest that the surgery could be skipped (depends on circumstance), but having a few research papers is not enough for everyone to stop getting the surgeries. You can postpone the surgery to attempt rehab, but if rehab alone doesn’t work, it’s more time lost to surgery and rehab in the future.
I guess I didn’t really help give a better answer but it’s hard when the risk of getting worse in the future is unknown. Either way, the rehab that comes after is really important to get you back to your sport.
This is the time where I like to make sure that the “spontaneous” tears don’t happen again, especially since the risk is high for the other leg. While tears that happened because of trauma go through the same rehab process and future prevention, we know we won’t be able to prevent trauma.
Now if you’re interested in seeing how the surgery is done, there are plenty of videos. So I’ll skip that part. If you prefer seeing the no blood, very computerized 3d models, there are plenty of those.
Next blog I’ll discuss the rehab part.