49 Jazz & Tap Dancer with torn ACL...now what?

by Cathlyn
(Sussex County, NJ, USA)

I'm 49 and was on vacation, sitting down doing NOTHING, when another tourist (drunk) body slammed into the side of me when she came to sit down and talk to me. My body went one way and my knee stayed put...you know the drill.


No broken bones (just bruised) and confirmed torn ACL. One doc is ready to operate now and another suggested that 'at your age'...we do nothing- live with it and modify activities.

As an active heh-'older' person, I'm now weighing whether to have the surgery or not. I need to be able to lunge, plie, leap and land on one leg- not to mention tap, jump up and shuffle on my injured leg for hours at a time.
(dance is recreational, but an integral part of my life!)

I've seen what my husband has gone through the last 30 years with a torn ACL, and it's not pretty- had to give up running, etc.

I'd like to return to dance!
(My cardio, stretch & weights 3x a week should not be affected by this injury.)
I want to be able to keep up with grandkids when I finally get some!
Right now, I'm beginning therapy to strengthen my bad knee...then make a decision.



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Apr 25, 2012
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Thanks for your story
by: Patty

Wow. This has been so helpful. Almost 6 weeks ago I was walking across a street and got hit by a car. Thank God I'm alive to tell the tale, but ended up with a torn ACL.

I am 46 and also a dancer and a runner. Not being able to do either of those activities while allowing the bruising and swelling to heal has been so hard. Not to mention depressing.

My surgeon also told me the same thing. At my age, better to live with it. What?! I don't want to have a worse condition 10 or 15 years down the line.

How is your knee now? Are you back to dancing?

Jun 23, 2010
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Are you dancing again
by: jenkins

Hi Cathlyn,
I am wondering if you are back to dancing again and, if so, how stable you feel when you dance? I am in the exact same situation and would really appreciate your input on the long-term recovery.
Thanks

Apr 14, 2010
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My advice to you..
by: Anonymous

I am 19 and tore my ACL when i was 16. It went misdiagnosed for 2 years. Then i was given an MRI, which showed the tear along with some miniscal tears.

The moral of the story is:
DONT go for 2 years with a torn ACL, and tear up your cartledge unknowengly.

Note! I was not doing anything strenuous those 2 years. I had given up soccer and I only ran in a straight line with no unpredictable movemements. My knee would randomly give out when I was walking, this is what tore my cartledge.

I got the ACL surgery last summer, and recovered great! They removed one of my miniscus, and now i need another surgery (miniscal transplant) this summer. It is a much more complicated surgery, and I will be on crutches for 3 months. This SHOULD be the last surgery for me, and I should be able to return to doing sports after a year or so has passed.

My advice to you, is to get the surgery, follow protocol. Give your knee a good period of time to heal, then ease into dancing again. Save your miniscus while you can!!





Jan 21, 2009
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sorry I missed this one
by: Bart - SII

Just found your comment about the massager - probably a little late, but it sounds pretty good. I always did a lot of massage around the patella/portals/incision with my patients to help keep things mobile. usually made a world of difference.

Hope you are still doing well - how much longer before you can start a little tap?

Bart

Dec 30, 2008
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THANKS!
by: Lori

Thanks for all your positive comments on my ACL story. I'm glad to hear that things are going well for you! I'm looking forward to when you can tell us you're dancing again!

Dec 30, 2008
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Starting PT
by: Cathlyn

Almost 3 weeks Post Op

PT is starting slowly according to my doc's orders and will get more 'into' things after Jan 7. Extension is at 0, but I'm naturally a -5, so I still have a way to go there and I'm only at 100 flex-

Bart- I'm using a heated massager to help break up and move my knee cap around and move the area of the portals- in addition to my manual movements there- thoughts?

Dec 18, 2008
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thanks Bart
by: Cathlyn

Bart,

Many thanks, and yes, not rushing recovery- I realize it will take months for the graft to fully incorporate as well. (allograft)

Saw doc yesterday for 1st post op and he was very pleased with my knee, and how far I was able to bend. When he saw my extension, he was impressed- so that made me happy! (I worked on it a lot!)

Doing the flexing and extending the first time was challenging, but felt OOOOOOooo so good after!

Cheers!

Dec 17, 2008
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Congrats!
by: Bart - SII

So glad you made it through the surgery without any major complications - meniscus tears with ACL's are very common, and it shouldn't affect your rehab or recovery.

Keep doing those exercises, don't go too fast, and work on your extension - that is the most important thing right now.

Bart

Dec 16, 2008
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Surgery went fine
by: Cathlyn

Surgery went fine, with the exception that they found two meniscal tears that they weren't expecting, then had to fix them fist then do the ACL.

I made it up 3 sets of stairs in my home first day- thank goodness the PT at the hospital showed me how!

Came out of anesthesia fine, just had the shakes a bit.

1st day after was worst, but wasn't as bad as I expected- I'm on pretty strong meds, and after the nerve block wore off- it just wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

(Having a major power outage made things challenging as we had no lights, heat or flushing toilets for 18 hours after I got home! Sheesh! What timing!)

I'm on day 5 after now- walking well with crutches but mostly using them for balance - I can stand on my leg with not a lot of discomfort. Doc says it's okay as I can tolerate it.(I still have my leg in an immobilizer) I have exercises to do every day- a challenge but it feels better after- each time!

I'm feeling good overall, and very happy I had the surgery- especially because now they found the additional tears which are now fixed.


Nov 20, 2008
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I am a dancer too
by: Michelle

I was reading your story and I totally relate to you...I just had my surgery and my goal is to be able to dance again the same as before. It is just recreational for me too but it is my passion. I have been dancing since I was 4 and am in my 20s. I feel like part of me would die inside if I could not dance again.

I had similar episodes with my knee giving out before the surgery. My doctor had me where a brace until the surgery to protect it from further damage.

Whatever you decide, best of luck!! I hope you decide to get the reconstruction, there are many more years of dancing still ahead!

Nov 20, 2008
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I would agree with your PT
by: Bart - SII

It is quite possible that you are getting some shifting of the tibia and the femur when you are walking - due to the lack of the ACL to keep the knee stable and everything in line. That then can lead to altered mechanics of the patella - causing it to feel like it is locking up. It should get better as you work through your exercises and are able to build your strength to help stabilize your knee, and it should go away after surgery when your knee is stable again.

Bart

Nov 20, 2008
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presurgery help?
by: Cathlyn

Bart,
I'm doing well in PT prior to my surgery Dec 11.
However, when I walk normally as possible, without warning, my knee cap just freezes up on me and I'm suddenly and mildy painfully unable to bend the knee- I adjust my leg- shake it out and it's okay- but is there anything I can do now to help stop this? My PTA just says "There is a lot going on in there, and this won't happen after your surgery."

Thoughts?


Cathlyn**

Nov 09, 2008
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Thanks Bart
by: Cathlyn

Thanks for your comments, Bart. They mean a lot to me. I've been doing dance on and off all my life, and even the evening I was injured, I danced for 2 hours to a live band (alone) rather than drink like the rest of the passengers on board, because dancing makes me alive and gives me a better 'high' than anything else in the world. (Did I mention it was a 2 hour all you can drink & eat dinner cruise that I was on?)

Though active, I am overweight by 50lbs. Maybe the doc just took one look at me and thinks I'm not as active as I say I am. But I was getting shin splints doing tap all year I was working so hard at it. I was at the intermediate level and able to keep up with the 20 somethings in my class.

First doc said to keep off leg, so I didn't walk on it for 4 weeks! This docs say exercise first, as did this site. So now I'm walking better after 4 days-and stretching. Will do PT this week and ask for the surgery.

The latest doc made me feel incredibly old- but maybe he was just testing me too. To see how important dance really is to me. I don't care about the 6 months recovery time-if it will give me the quality of life I want.

My plan is to celebrate my 50th birthday dancing.
Memorial Day weekend 2009.

:-)

Nov 08, 2008
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Older?
by: Bart - SII

You are an active individual who obviously has a definite need to continue with your activities. Sports or dance are not just something that people do for fun - they are part of your life, just like me teaching and treating patients is part of my life - to be asked to give that up without a fight is crazy.

I have treated countless ACL patients who were older than you - 49 is not too old for an ACL reconstruction, especially if the person is active and healthy. The rehab is a chore - 6 months of hard work, some frustration, and patience. But to be able to continue doing what you love, and perhaps even the cardio and weights, you need a fully functioning knee.

You would likely be a good candidate for a patellar tendon allograft - the recovery is easier and for your activities the graft is a good choice.

Explore your options, but know that in this day and age, 49 is not too old - 10 years ago I might have said something else, but we have come a long way in the last decade with ACLRs.

Bart

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