Brendan's ACL tear/surgery/recovery. Football and Track.

by Brendan
(Fort Madison, Iowa, United States)

I am a 17 year old Junior in high school and I've been training to be the absolute best I can be for football and track for the past few years. Track has been my forte and I've managed to qualify for the state meet in my sprinting events both my freshman and sophomore year. This preseason in football, August 16th to be exact, we were doing a hitting drill and instead of tackling me, a kid ripped on my jersey while my right leg was stuck because my cleats were dug into the ground. I twisted and fell on my knee and heard the notorious pop and started screaming. Something was definitely wrong. I went to the E.R. that night and they told me I had sprained my knee and that it would get better. I finally got an MRI and it showed that I had a torn ACL, medial meniscus, and gastrocnemius (calf) muscle. The first doctor I saw told me that I could continue to play football as long as i wore a brace, so i did. Continuing to play only made matters worse. Every few days it would give out and pop and I would be limping around all over again. There for awhile I thought it was better because my speed was almost all the way back. I decided to get a second opinion and I was told that playing football was stupid, and that surgery was imperative. I was told that getting my knee as strong as possible before surgery would aid me in recovery, so I did that.
October 20th, 2010 I underwent a 4-5 hour surgery in which the used a graft from my patellar tendon to fix my ACL, and they repaired my meniscus. They had all these timelines for my recovery and all I did was use those timelines to prove them wrong.
The doctor told me that the first year I might be 85 to 90 percent, speedwise, for track. I completely gave up my football dream and decided to dedicate all of my time to recovering in time for track. The recovery was supposed to be 6 months, track starts in 4 months. After the doctor told me all of these things he told me to prove him wrong, and that statistics are only numbers and that anything is possible. So I took that statement to heart. He also said the key to a faster recovery is setting goals, staying positive, and doing my therapy every day.


I wasn't supposed to be walking until 2 weeks postop, I was walking in a week and a half. I wasn't supposed to be able to bend past 90 degrees until 6 weeks, I was at 115 degrees at 6 weeks. My strength has been coming back excellently and is continuing to grow. I wasn't supposed to be running until 12 weeks, and I was running at 8 weeks. So I was pretty far ahead of schedule.
The only issues I've had so far are the gastro tear, shin splints in my right leg, and some sort of nerve pain in my right buttock and ankle joint.
I went back to the doctor on December 7th and he told me that not only could I recover, but I had a 98% chance of recovering as if I never had knee problems in the first place. He also said the 6 month recovery period had shortened to 4 or 5 months. My recovery had been remarkable.
Today is January 4th, 2011 and I go back to the doctor on January 20th. My shin splints are beginning to go away, my speed is improving, and the only major issues right now are the weakness in my right leg and the nerve pain in my right butt.
I will update this every visit I take to the doctor, thank you for reading and good luck to you if you have experienced anything like this.

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Aug 17, 2011
Recovery
by: Brendan

My knee is pretty much fully healed. The only thing I need to work on now is getting all of my speed back. Track has been over since mid may and I have been training 3-5 times a week since. Last monday I ran a 52.6 400m in practice. While this isn't as fast as I used to be, it's only August and I ran that with no competition. I've been using an intense weight training program along with a lot of speed training to get everything back.

On another note, this will be my last update unless any of you ask.

Words of wisdom: A very promising future can turn into a world of hell at any point in time. When this happens you can do 1 of 2 things.
You can be like most people and let this unfortunate event cripple you until you give up on your dreams and aspirations.
Or you can fight the good fight and battle the odds of never being the same (or better) again.
Don't listen to that little voice in your head telling you not to do your therapy, telling you to just give in to this adversity. You will regret it if you do.

Prosper in the face of this adversity and show it that nothing can break you. When all in life is in a downward spiral, you have to look deep within yourself and find the will to keep going.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck with whatever you may be dealing with.

"How a person handles adversity defines their character."

Jun 30, 2011
@Tyler
by: Brendan

Good point Tyler.. It's just like he said. You go through phases of rapid improvement, peak, and then sometimes you find yourself wondering why you aren't improving anymore? Don't lose hope! This is normal, and after a major surgery such as this one be prepared to go on a wild ride. You'll get all sorts of aches and pains associated with over compensation for the knee that you might think might be a new injury coming along.. It's just the atrophy going away and you're leg getting reconditioned to where it was before the initial injury.

Jun 27, 2011
Shin Pain
by: Tyler

Just in the 3 weeks since I posted that about the shin pain, it has pretty much gone away again. I did take 5 days off (I ice and elevate everyday anyway). I then ran 5 miles a few days ago, am really sore, but the leg feels great. To anyone going through this for the firt time, be prepared to go through a bunch of ups and downs. You make progress then you plateau and wonder why you're not getting better. Then BAM, you make another leap forward; it's just like that.

Jun 20, 2011
Shin pain
by: Brendan

From my experience, it just kind of comes and goes. Mine came around the time I started to run, which was about 3 months out. I was running on hard surfaces trying to get into shape for track, but my leg wasn't quite strong enough yet to withstand the impact of my foot striking the ground. Its probably a general strength issue. The most effective thing you can do is rest it for a week or so, (3 weeks max?). During this rest period ice it as much as possible and do strengthening exercises daily. This would include the resistance bands they give you for therapy, body weight exercises for tibia strengthening, as well as regular stretching throughout the day.

I know you might think "It can't be that easy". But it is. Now if you have stress fractures, thats a different story. If I recall my doctor said stress fractures take 6 weeks of rest and therapy to fix, unless they're too bad. Then I believe surgery is considered.

Jun 10, 2011
Shin stil hurt?
by: Anonymous

I'm @ 6 months post op patellar ACL recon and I'm back to playing soccer, but I'm getting some pain on the medial side of my shin, near where the tibial screw was inserted. The problem of the screw backing out has been ruled out and some are saying that the shin pain is kind of common; just wondering if/when yours went away. I didn't develope this pain until just 5 1/2 months - running @ 3,4 months wasn't giving me shin pain for whatever reason.

Jun 09, 2011
Forgot to update after districts
by: Brendan

400m: 51.2 5th place
200m: 23.2 7th place
4x4split: 52.0 5th place

The list for state was made. The top 3 from the 8 districts are automatically on the list. So there are 24 athletes in each event. Out of those 24, the 12th fastest time is treated as a cutoff for any athlete that may have not have made top 3 in the district, but ran a faster time then most of the other athletes.
The cutoff for the 400m was 51.00. I was 13th fastest in the state but missed making the cut by .2 (2 tenths of a second).
At first I was extremely irritated (especially after watching the 400m at state and seeing that I could've made top 10), but it has motivated me to work hard all year in the offseason and do all that I can to become a state champion next season.

Jun 09, 2011
Crutches
by: Brendan

I was pretty much immobile for about a week and a half to two weeks. After that I started to ween off the crutches a little bit. When I started weening it was only a few days before I could hobble around without them. At this point though it definitely wouldn't hurt to use 1 crutch for balance and gradually build your strength back up to where you can walk almost normal again. So I would say 2-3 weeks before you can hobble around, 3-4 weeks before you can lose the crutches completely. I'm no doctor, but that is about how long it took me. It also depends on how motivated you are to walk again. What exactly did you do to your knee?

Jun 07, 2011
How long before walking without crutches
by: George

Hey, very much enjoyed your story, it actually was the last straw for me to go ahead with the surgery, so i wanted to know how long it took for you to walk without crutches, not run, just walk. im taking 3 weeks off of school, will i be able to walk after after 3 weeks? i have pretty strong legs the doc said that could help.

May 12, 2011
Update
by: Brendan

A lot of our meets were cancelled but the end of the season is closing in and today is our last meet.
My season bests are as follows:
100m: 11.60
200m: 23.52
400m: 52.44
400split: 51.90

Tonight decides whether I go to state or not and our district is STACKED!! I don't have a legitimate chance to take the 200 but I might in the open 400. If our 4x4 team kicks in in gear and we P.R. we may be able to take it as well.

Apr 09, 2011
Update April 9, 2011
by: Brendan

I've had three outdoor meets. My first meet I ran the 400, 200, and 4x400. My open 400 was 56.06, my 200 was 24.12, and my 4x4 split was 54.
In my second meet I ran the same races; my open 4 was 57, my 200 was 24.3, and my 4x4 split was 55.
My third meet I ran the 100 and 400 back to back. My 100 was a depressing 11.9. My open 400 was 54.3, my 200 was 23.88, and I lead off the 4x4 with a 52.9!!
These are some great signs of improvement, while this does motivate me.. I'm still not satisfied with these times.
My current goals are to at least get back to where I was last year:
100m: 11.00
200m: 22.33
400m: 50.21
400 split: 48.66
I'll try to update this about every 3 meets.
Thank you for reading, feel free to leave any feedback!

Mar 19, 2011
For Anonymous
by: Brendan

I've had two indoor meets so far. I ran the 60m in 7.08 compared to my 6.92 last season. And I ran the 55m in 6.8 compared to my 6.48 last season. Outdoor season starts this Thursday and I will try to update my times as much as possible.

Mar 04, 2011
On a side note
by: Brendan

I forgot to add that the doctor said that I am graduating from therapy and that running will essentially be better for me than attending therapy.

Mar 04, 2011
Update
by: Brendan

I went to the doctor's yesterday and got really good news. He cleared me to compete! He told me I could've been cleared last time, but that he didn't want to take any chances. My speed is at about 85-90%, and the doctor said that my risk of reinjury is "logarithmically decreasing". He told me the shin splint in my right leg could potentially be a major issue though and not to ignore it. He also advised that I use good judgement when I choose to compete because of the shin splint. Other then that, everything is great! I don't go back for another 4 months. Feel free to ask any personal questions about this! Thanks for reading :)

Feb 12, 2011
Re: Melissa and Anonymous
by: Brendan

Thank you for reading my story, I hope that it has helped you. The reason I posted it was because initially after my injury and the announcement of surgery I did not know what to expect! And though there are 1000's of stories on here, none of them told me specifically what I wanted to know relating to football athletes with dreams to becoming a track star.
Melissa:Thanks for the encouragement! The key to getting out of this is keeping your thoughts positive and sticking to your therapy. If you have any questions feel free to ask!
Anonymous:I'm glad that I could inspire you, it means a lot for somebody to say that. Like I told Melissa, think positive and stay dedicated! The people that inspired me were my coaches,friends, and family. My Track Coach said this, "The way a person handles adversity defines their character". "Hard work pays off". Tell me the way you interpret these quotes, as they have stuck in my head throughout this rough ride and it helps.
I'll be updating this after my checkup on March 3rd! Track starts February 23rd and our first meet is March 10th! Stay tuned! and thank you for reading!

Feb 08, 2011
Inspiration
by: Anonymous

Your story really helped me. I am a 17 year old male that shares the EXACT same interests as you, and alas, my scholarship put on hold for a torn acl. Rehab is a pain in the ass but the results will be worth it. Your commitment and progress are remarkable and i cant thank you enough for posting your story, update your track times and progress guy!

Jan 31, 2011
Good luck to you! :)
by: Melissa

I'm glad to hear about your recovery because i'm only at my 5th week after surgery and didn't know much of what to expect later on .

Jan 23, 2011
Update
by: Brendan

I had my checkup on January 20th (13 weeks post operation) and my doctor said that I may return to practice! No contact or competition yet, but it should not be long. :)

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