Third and Final ACL surgery

by Nick

Hey everyone,

I'm currently recovering from my third ACL surgery, and this one has easily been the most difficult on me mentally. I feel like I need to communicate with some people who can understand what I'm going through, and after reading some of the stories on this site it seems like I'm not alone.

Prior to these injuries I was a three sport athlete, with basketball as my first real love in sports. I was dunking a basketball in 8th grade, playing in AAU tournaments when I wasn't playing with the varsity squad at my high school. I also played football and volleyball for my hs.
Then I tore my left ACL along with stretching the MCL when I was 16. This happened when I was playing basketball before practice after someone on the other team came down on me after I grabbed a rebound. I was going in to my junior year of high school.
Almost exactly a year later, going into my senior year I was getting back in great shape and building my confidence back until I landed awkwardly on a wet spot (playing basketball of course) and my right knee slid out and I tore my ACL and meniscus in my right knee. Unlike the first injury, I knew right away I tore it. It was by far the most painful injury I had felt. It was tough giving up football and volleyball; my knee's just couldn't take it. However I couldn't give up basketball. It meant too much to me and I had great support from my family and my teammates. I really pushed myself with the rehab, came back and finished the last half of the season. I wasn't anywhere near the same player I was before but I refused to let these injuries take that away from me.

This past winter break when I was back from college, I re-tore my left ACL playing ball with some friends. It happened nearly the same way my first injury went down, this time someone falling and colliding with me after I came down from a jump shot. I didn't have enough time to get it fixed then, so I decided to wait till I came back this summer to get the surgery done.
During the spring I really felt better about myself. I starting lifting weights again and took up swimming. I didn't want to play team sports that would have me turning or moving laterally in fear of messing up my meniscus. I lost decent amount of weight and was in the best shape I had been in since I tore my first ACL back when I was 16! I was weary of getting the replacement surgery again because, as you guys know, it just sucks.
What ultimately got me in the operating room was a couple things: I knew if I didn't get it repaired now I probably never would in the future, My parents kept pushing me to do it, and I was a lot more comfortable and had more trust in the orthopedic surgeon we went to this time. And it made the most sense financially to do it now (with the insurance lol).
I ended up having the surgery the first week I got back down for summer, just twelve days ago. I'm glad I kept myself working out and in shape up to the day before the surgery as the muscles on that leg haven't atrophied much. I feel like I've found alternative (and seemingly safer) ways that I enjoy to stay in shape and active once I recover. I'm going to get back in the gym and pool. I would like to complete a triathalon sometime soon so one of my recovery goals is to get back to running.

I could deal through whatever therapy I need to, as going through this multiple times has increased my knowledge and understanding on the subject, and also upped my pain threshold. What's been difficult is telling myself not to ever play the sport I used to love anymore. I don't feel like it should be like this, I mean I just turned 20! Because of these injuries I feel like I missed out completely on what should and could have been the best years of my competitive sports careers. What did I do so different than anyone else that made this happen? What did I do to deserve this? I dont even want to think about all of the down time I've gone through because of my knees or opportunities I could have missed out on because I was sitting on the sidelines.
I just feel like its not worth it if I keep getting injured. I have no idea what I was doing wrong, or why it had to keep happening to me. This is the third summer of going through this. I don't want these surgeries to get the best of me but I just don't know what to do about it any more. I could only imagine if I went back to playing sports and I end up tearing something again. It just seems like at this point that is the best way I can guarantee myself not to tear it. The surgery has killed my mood completely and I cant tell myself that I would ever do this one more time. Just to go through all this pain and months of wearing knee braces and crutches just to play a sport that does the same thing to you again?

I'm not trying to find sympathy, trust me I hear enough every time I tell someone this is the third time I've messed my knees up. I'm just glad to know that there are other people out there who can understand what I'm going through. It hasn't been easy but I hope that I can learn and make myself a better individual through it. I know I can get through it but sometimes its just hard to the whole thing off my mind. Anyone got some suggestions on how I can get my spirits back up? Or at least clear my mind off of this?

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Feb 24, 2016
My story NEW
by: Jay

Hey I'm 18 years old and going through the exact same thing. I had my first knee surgery at 12 because of basketball for my left knee, and my second one on my right for playing lacrosse at
16 and ended up losing my scholarship for boarding school. When moving back home I felt great about going to the best basketball high school in new york. Unfortunately after getting cleared I teared my right knee again and have been holding of the surgery for almost two years thinking I would get better on my own.WRONG.I got into a car accident last summer and messed my left acl also now. I missed out on my junior and senior year of basketball and just hurt me physically and mentally. It even got to a point I didn't even want to go to school cause I had gym twice a day and didn't want to look at the court. But I am now finally getting my third acl surgery after finding out there was still a college interested in me playing for them. But lately I've been thinking about do I really want to risk hurting my knee again? My family is telling me to just cut basketball off but I love it so much I just don't know if I could. I still haven't made my decision but I have decided that do to everything I have been through I want to major in physical therapy so I guess there's a bright side to this at the end. Your story actually made me feel better just knowing there is someone that felt the same and went through something very similar to my story. Hope your knees are better and that your taking good care of both of them.

Dec 27, 2015
My girl NEW
by: Sobummed

My 16 year old daughter is facing her 3rd ACL injury Sam knee. All basketball injuries. She had a hamstring graft March 2013 and ruptured that graft at her first varsity basketball game get freshman year. She had a Patellar Tendon graft in December 2013. Both times she worked very hard at rehab. Now 2 years after the last surgery she has torn that graft. We have to meet with her doctor to find out where she goes from here. I will miss seeing he on the court but thankful it's not something more serious!

Aug 20, 2015
Nice Post NEW
by: Lara Pole

I would like to see the day when somebody would be appointed surgeon somewhere who had no hands,
dissertation proposal by

May 19, 2015
A long road NEW
by: Mike

As many others here have said before me, you are absolutely not alone!

I first tore my ACL two years back in my junior season of football. I was 16. We were into week four and I managed to tear it on a measly Tuesday practice. It actually took us two to three months to find out it was torn because of the way our football program worked (they encouraged us to work with our trainer and not go to doctors. Twisted, I know. No pun intended) After losing that first varsity season, I was determined to heal from the surgery and get back in for my Senior season.

Unfortunately, a few weeks into the season I re-tore it. It was a huge blow. I've been to dark places before, but psychologically this was the darkest. It's hard feeling absolutely useless on the sidelines, especially when you've sat through two seasons on the sidelines and spent all the intervening months working hard to play.

The saga continues. I've wanted to join the Army since I was ten years old. My second surgery has been an interesting journey - about three months post-op my surgeon came to the conclusion that my graft may have failed and wasn't doing its job. However, after going to a new surgeon, it was determined that it wasn't torn. Recently, however, I was working out at the gym when I felt a very familiar "knuckles grinding/cracking" in my left knee. There's no official word on what happened, but I have a feeling I may be heading for another extravaganza.

It's hell, especially when it kills things that you've always wanted to do. I know it can be hard to stay positive, but I try to remind myself that there's worse health issues to be dealing with out there. It's a dammed shame that life isn't fair.

Feb 03, 2015
Getting ready for my 3rd ACLR NEW
by: Shannon

I'm sitting here trying to schedule my 3rd ACL surgery in the past 2 1/2 years. I've had each knee done once and am now looking at a revision on the right knee due to improper graft placement. Makes me want to scream! Have spent a year rehabbing this one and hoping to get back to competitive horse jumping. I've been saying all along that "something isn't in the right place". Now I find out that I was right. Hoping everybody is healing well! Good luck!

Jun 08, 2013
Hey same boat NEW
by: Anonymous

Hey I know exactly what you are going through. I am actually just chilling on the couch after my 3rd acl surgery. It sucks! I feel lost and stuck. This has definitely been the worst surgery out of all of them. But all you have to do is plan for something positive in the future, my positive is going to Ireland I can't wait. So me stuck sitting here after 5 surgeries really sucks. (3 acl, 1 meniscus, and an ankle) but you have to keep your head up!

Oct 02, 2011
Good luck
by: Tyler

It is sad to say I actually know what you are going through and it is something I wish I couldn't relate to but I can. I have had three acl surgeries in the last 3 years and it sucks. There is no way to get around it. The first just seems like bad luck, the second it sucks, and by the third time round I don't even know how to describe it. I hope your recovery is going well. Even though I have torn my acl three times I have managed to pursue my dreams and play collegiate basketball. I know it is hard sitting on the side watching others get to play as you feel hopeless on the side but it gets better. If sports are something that you really want to pursue don't let this hold you back. Know at the end of your recovery you will back doing what you love and focus on that. Knowing that I was going to get back to basketball is what kept me going. Stay strong and I wish the best of luck to you.

Jul 20, 2011
Tips for avoiding next tear
by: Lee Ann

My 15yo son just had 2nd surgery and NOW I'm learning that there are things you can do to prevent reinjury.

The first we all know. Wait as long as you can to return. Yes, I know you're screaming.

Second, learn to land softly on balls of feet, only pivot on balls of feet, and in basketball take 3 steps to stop.

Check out PEP exercises (google it) and do them religiously during whatever season you're into.

Surgeons are not the ones to teach prevention...a little conflict of interest there!

Anyone have any good ideas for an amazingly athletic teenager to do while he's sitting around another year to recover? Video games can't be the best answer. Yes, he'll swim, bike, walk, but is there anything fun?

Thanks & good luck out there!

Jul 03, 2011
What's the chances of this holding up!
by: DaveB

Man, there are some stong folk out there going through this multiple times! amazing stories.

10 mths on after ACl and meniscus repair, hamstring autograft... absolutely delighted with results. 35 now and tore ACL 22 yrs ago - no op, not complete tear and active without until twist 18mths ago. Now back to playing gentle league squash. Fair amount of gym quad and hamstring work. Feels 100%! The more I push it the better it feels.

Question out there - what's my chances of being back in surgery?? I had a great surgeon, ACL specialist with 150+ a year. He recons my repaired knee is only as likely to repture the ACL as my good one - now that's a confident statement! (surgeons don't lack confidence in my experience!) He says for me, moderate sport, active, good shape, he rates me at 1% per knee per year for rupture - sounds too good to me! That means I can have an active sporty life and odds are on not having more ACL damage ever - what's the experience out there in advice and reality?

I'd say to anyone out there in recovery, blast the gym and get the hamstrings strong and fit. Work on preprioceptive rehab (wobble boards etc...), and train for technique in movement....

Jun 23, 2011
You're not alone!!
by: Anonymous

Your story gave me the chills! I can totally relate to what you are going through. I was a three-sport athlete and lived for basketball. Coming back from the first surgery was hard, but coming back from the second seems to be so much harder. I am finding the mental aspect to be so much more difficult. It's really a low blow to work so hard to return to playing and you just aren't the same player, but that just has to drive you more! I'm also starting to see that I'll be a different role player on the court than I was before my injuries. For a while I could only think about the "should haves" and "could haves" but then realized that was just holding me back. There comes a time when you have to try put it behind you and keep you head up. Whenever I get frustrated and down about it, I think about people that can't physically play, how hard it would be if these injuries prevented me from ever playing again, and how "lucky" I am that although it's been a bumpy ride, I can still play...just in a different way. Thanks for sharing you story, I really needed that today! Good luck :)

Jun 07, 2011
the moods can really get to you...
by: Em

I know what you mean about the moods bringing you down!! My first ACL surgery was upsetting, but I was determined to come back, and had so much support, that it didn't seem that bad. But the second ACL surgery was a b****. It was so much worse knowing what I was getting into. I was so anxious going into the surgery, and in the first few days after surgery I started having anxiety and depression that I didn't have after the first one. It helps if you talk about it, definitely, to family and close friends. I won't tell you the line you've probably heard so much- "Everything happens for a reason", because I don't think that's true. I don't think ACL injuries happen for some bigger reason, they just suck. But working through them makes you better, and tougher, and down the road when you need that strength I hope it comes through for you.

Jun 06, 2011
Finally, someone who gets it!
by: Kelsey

Your story has touched me so deeply and I completely hear you. I'm in the process of prepping for my 3rd acl, and 5th knee surgery on the same leg and to say the least my mood is shot. It is really great to hear from people who know exactly what I'm going through, and similar to you I just turned 21 and have/had been a tri-athlete my entire life. I've been trying to find blogs online, but it's hard to feel connected to other people that have only torn it once, as sad as it sounds. This site looks great, yours just happened to be the first one I found. I might even have to write something to get all this stress and tension off my chest. I'm not sure if I have anything to lift your spirits other than assuring you there really are other people out there who know exactly how you feel. I hope recovery is going well--I'll be right in that same boat with you.. again shortly. :/ Thanks again, and good luck!

Jun 03, 2011
by: Anonymous

Keep it up!!

Jun 03, 2011
I hear you!
by: Jael

Though I have not been through more than one ACL tear I know how you feel!
I tore my ACL this past September during a pre season Varsity soccer tournament. I got plowed over straight into the side of my knee, then I got up and kept playing. I was running down after a girl when my knee just collapsed.
I thinks the worst part is mentally knowing that your season is OVER. Also the hardest part of rehab was mental too! It takes soo long to recover and I can't imagine having to go through it more than once, and I can't imagine not playing soccer ever again.

Just keep working hard and get your legs VERY strong! If you do this, the muscles around your knee can take some of the impact and hold you leg stronger! That is what I have been working on a lot.
Why don't you try swimming on a swim team. Then you won't have to give up all sports and it will be a low impact thing. And you have already been swimming!
Good luck to you!:)
Keep with it!!!!!

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