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ACL Tear?

Posted by on July 26, 2010

I had my post op doctor appointment today.  I met with a PA as well as my surgeon.  The PA was the guy who got to hold my leg in place during surgery.  It was an interesting and exciting appointment.  Surgery is never a fun option if you can avoid it and it looks like I have.  Although I was rather curious about a few things.

Why did you think it was possibly fully torn when it was only a partial (minor tear)?
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell with a physical exam and MRI alone.  Nothing beats the human eye when it comes to diagnosing injury.

Can you show me where the tear was on the images?
Not really.  The ACL at the top is red and maybe slightly thinner but the spot where there was “likely” a tear is difficult to see.  Both ends of the ACL are firmly attached to the bone, have a blood supply and healing capabilities.  The ACL also appears to have done some healing already.  It IS still red and irritated toward the top – clearly there was an injury that needs time to heal.

Will it heal fine on it’s own?
Mostly likely.  (in other words, probably – but everyone is different and it’s hard to say with 100% certainly).  It is not often surgeons open up a knee with surgery in mind and then DON’T follow through with the planned surgery.  A slightly torn ACL CAN heal.  It’s difficult to know when it’s fully healed though.  Most people say ACL tears can’t  heal because most ACL tears are full tears or partial tears that tear away from the bone or cut off blood supply in which case no healing can take place.

When can I get back to running?
Well, you need to come back in about 6 weeks – but a couple weeks before that if things are feeling well you can start straight line running – like running at a track and walk the curves.  It’s okay to start walking, including walking hills.  Bike is good and elliptical is also good.  Keep up the PT.

How about cutting and pivoting sports?
Not for a while yet.  The ACL can heal but the longer it gets to recover, the greater the healing.  (I’ll probably stay away from cutting and pivoting sports until the spring.)

What about my knee flexion – I can still only bend to 120 degrees?
That will come back.  Don’t worry about it too much.

So there you have.  I’d say that’s really good news.  While there is a “chance” that my ACL could tear in the future, it’s not necessarily that much greater than another active person’s risk of a tear.  Slightly increased risk probably but not really worth worrying about.  Truth be told I will probably baby myself a little when it comes to cutting and pivoting over the next year and I may even wear an acl brace next softball season even though it may not be required.

Overall things are looking good and I’m walking much better.  Yesterday I did a pretty comfortable 22 minutes on the bike.  My leg strength isn’t quite there yet but I think it will be close or equal to my non injured leg in the next couple weeks.  My limp is almost gone (and is at times).  If things keep going well, hopefully this will become a running blog again soon!

Happy Running & Dirty Feet,
Jessica

3 Responses to ACL Tear?

  1. Abbie

    Well that sounds optimistic – glad you’re feeling better!

  2. E Gilbert

    I just came back from the Dr, hearing that my knee injury from May was not a meniscal tear as he thought, but a “functional” tear to the ACL, that is a partial tear, but since the tibia has moved forward, it is considered a near total tear.
    This is a shock because during the summer I hiked and backpacked many miles and climbed mountains. Hiking, climbing, twisting, descending, biking and running, I am doing it all.
    I am not that young, and don’t know where it goes from here.

  3. socalrunnergirl

    I’d get a second and/or third opinion. If you are still highly functional, I wouldn’t do ACL surgery unless you absolutely have to. Surgery has come a long way but it’s not the same as your original. ACLs CAN heal from partial tears depending on where they are torn and if the blood supply is still intact. You could always leave it and stay active and get another MRI if it starts acting up. But if you can do all that and don’t have slipping, etc of your knee (especially forward motion) then you may not have to worry too much about it.

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