6 Torn ACLs

by Allie

I am 17 years old, and I have torn my ACLs 3 times in each knee. I now have my 5th and 6th torn ACLs, and I will not have a reconstructive surgery for either of them. I am a senior in high school, where I play volleyball, basketball, tennis, and I am a cheerleader. STICK WITH ME, I know its a lot to read, but the end is worth it.

First Go-Round: Snow Skiing (right knee 4/05)
At age 13 (8th grade) I tore my ACL, MCL, cartilage, and meniscus. I was snow skiing, (the first run down, of course!) it was icy, and I could not dig in to stop my skis. The ski clinic told me I was fine after doing X-rays that showed no broken bones. A week later I came home and saw an orthopedic surgeon. A month later (when I had full range of motion) I had surgery, the method was used where the doctor took part of my hamstring to act as the ligament*. After three-four months of P.T. I was doing good, I quit competition cheerleading & tumbling because my doctor said such activity (tumbling) was not good for my knees, and I also had to miss that year's tennis season.
Second: Basketball (left knee 8/06)
After 7 months and a full recovery I was a freshman in high school, and playing varsity basketball. I missed volleyball to ensure my knee was rehabilitated fully. That year I played basketball, cheered for my school (no tumbling anymore), and played tennis in the spring with no major problems. After tennis season ended I had an off-period during school & athletes typically used it to work on a sport(s). It was playing basketball that I slipped and tore the ACL in my left knee. I went back to my surgeon and he examined it and said nothing was wrong with it, maybe a sprain or something minor. I went all summer doing everything I would have normally done and I knew my knee was messed up. Every once in a while it would give out, and excruciating pain would pierce through my knee for 5-10 seconds…then I was fine again. At the end of July ‘06 I went up to my surgeon at church and told him about this, practically in tears so he would believe me, and he scheduled an MRI. A week later we got the results of the test, and my ACL was torn. I found this out and three days later had my second ACL reconstruction, this time I said I DID NOT want to use the hamstring again, so he used a cadaver (allograph). By the way, I started the 11th grade three days after this surgery, crutches, pain killers and all!
Third Round: Tennis/Volleyball (right knee 11/17/07)
June of ’07 I was having knee complications again, and I decided to go to a different doctor for a second opinion. The doctor determined that my ligament was torn again, this time shredded into many pieces. As you could probably imagine I was extremely upset by this news; I had been wearing my special brace while playing any sort of sport, and I had fulfilled the P.T. requirements on the first surgery to this knee. I told the new doctor that I would play volleyball anyways, and after that possibly have the surgery. He was against me playing, but allowed it as long as I wore the brace. I played that season, as the middle hitter on my team, on one torn ACL (or so I thought). I was in constant pain, it was worse when sitting still though, but I learned how to block out the pain. After volleyball season ended I knew I needed to have my knee fixed. On 11/17/08, a few
days before Thanksgiving, I had the surgery, using the new surgeon. The allograph method was used.
Fourth Time: Oops (left knee 12/18/07)
That’s right, a month nearly to the day after the third surgery. On the 1 week post op check up for the 3rd surgery my doctor discovered something was wrong with my other knee. Orthopedists normally compare the manipulated knee to the “good” knee, to see how much improvement is being made. My doctor asked me how “they” were feeling, and not to his surprise, I told him that my good leg hurt worse than my bad one. Yeah, probably because one of the screws that had been put in to secure the ligament was too long, and the sharp end was sticking out of my bone and piercing my calf and had caused the ligament to shred. Thank you, oh brilliant surgeon of my first two surgeries. Basically the longer I waited the more damage it would cause to my calf, so I decided to have the surgery as soon as possible. Being a student whose parents do not have to tell her to make good grades- I am disappointed with anything less than an ‘A’- I scheduled the surgery for the next time I would have a break from school, Christmas. (That is why I had the 3rd one over Thanksgiving, and the 2nd one right before school started). On December 18th I was scheduled for surgery. I was a complete wreck; sobbing and suffering from depression because I did not know what I had done to deserve this. Anyways, surgery went “great”, the ACL fixed and the screw removed. Christmas break was pretty miserable, as I was basically immobile.
Fifth & Sixth: I don’t really know
I recently discovered that the ACLs in each of my knees are torn yet again. I have no idea how or when this happened, my guess is gradually over time. I have decided not to have any more reconstructions; I kind of see them as pointless. I am a senior now, and could not play volleyball due to the pain in my right knee. I won’t play basketball either, because I see that sport as more of a danger than the others in terms of my knees. I am the captain of my school’s cheerleading squad this year, and I have slowly begun to start jumping again, unfortunately tumbling saw its end back in 2005. I will wear my hot pink knee brace on my right leg while cheering, and when I need to I will wear my lime green one on my left leg. (The right feels less stable than the left, though both are torn). I will start training for tennis in the fall, and will begin playing for school in the spring. I hope to win State this year, out of my two previous trips to State I haven’t placed 1st.
I guess the reason I wrote all of this was to encourage someone out there who is desperate for an answer to the question of why do they keep tearing, that for some people that is how your body is. I have learned to live with two bad knees; there is a great chance that I will have knee replacements by the time I’m in my 20’s. I am not reckless or uninformed about what living with torn ACLs can do, but after weighing the risks, I think a 5th and 6th surgery would only lead to a 7th and 8th…and so on. I’m not having a pity party, these are my facts. I just hope that someone else can be encouraged by them- because I do not live in self pity, I love my life (as cheesy as it sounds) and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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