Tina's pre-ACL Surgery anxiety

by Tina

I ruptured my ACL and partially tore my MCL in my left knee while skiing December 20th. I had minimal swelling but because I injured myself around the holidays, I couldn't see a doctor or get an MRI until much later after new year's.

It's been about 11 weeks already and I've been going to physical therapy twice a week since late January. My MCL is fully healed, according to my doctor and I finally have around 100 degrees of flexion as well as full extension. I've been reading around and it's been suggested to reach full range of movement before surgery. My right knee has a total of ~140 degrees and right now I have surgery schedule in two weeks. Is that fine? I go up stairs and walk around normally. I only wear my brace because campus is rather crowded and I'd rather not have my knee kicked out from under me by accident.

I'm really worried about having my surgery in the middle of a week that I have school. My university does have special on-campus transit for injured students, but the surgery is on a Wednesday of all days. It sounds like the anesthesia really knocks out some people and the pain doesn't sound like the best thing in the world. Should I even try going to any of my classes the two days after the surgery? It seems like that would just worsen swelling.

My parents also keep trying to convince me to put off the surgery until late May. I don't know if that would be a good move or not. Part of me wants to get the surgery over with as soon as possible. I already go to physical therapy twice a week, so I'm not sure. And during the summer, I plan on taking on a research internship.

I'm just confused and not sure what I want to do. My doctor says it's fine this month or in May, and I just want as smooth a recovery as possible.

Any advice?

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Mar 14, 2009
surgery or not
by: Bart - SII

Everyones experience with ACL surgery is going to be different. Some have lots and lots of pain and a hard time being mobile (on crutches of course) for the first few weeks. Others are off the pain meds in a day or two, walking on the crutches without problems immediately, and off the crutches in a couple weeks.

Think about how much you need to be able to move during the day for classes, how it will affect your daily activities, and how you have historically tolerated pain. Think about your intial injury and how you dealt with the pain from that. The surgery is usually a bit worse, but it does give you a reference point.

Surgery now or in May shouldn't make a huge difference in your total recovery, but surgery in May will definitely limit your summer activities, simply because you will have activity restrictions for 6-9 months (ie. no sports or intense physical activity). So that is something to consider as well.


Mar 14, 2009
ACL Surgery
by: Candy Kahany

Hi Tina,

My 14 year old son is having ACL surgery on 4/3. I am taking him out of school 4 days prior to his spring break. After surgery, he will have 17 days before he needs to return to school. By then he will be in physical therapy already. Listen to your parents. From what I heard, it's about 48 hours of excruciating pain. Have the surgery when you have more time. Let me know what you decide, and good luck.

Mar 14, 2009
Similar Story
by: Danny

Hey Tina,

I go to Maryland-College Park too! Anyways, I opted to get surgery the week before Spring Break so I can use the time to recover. The first two days were crucial in recovery as the pain fluctuates between unbearable (after the anesthesia wears off) and bearable...not a good idea to test it on campus.

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