I Tore My ACL

I’ve been injured so many times from basketball, I already know what the recovery is like, how fast things heal, and when I can go back on the court. The only injury I’ve had where I’ve needed surgery was a fracture scaphoid (wrist). Up until that point, it’s just been ankle sprains, bone bruises, and a few strained muscles. When I got the wrist surgery, I thought that that I wouldn’t be the same anymore after surgery since a permanent screw had been placed in my wrist. I thought I’d be like a machine.

You Are Fragile and Can Be Broken

I’ve always had this belief that you should never do anything to your body that’s “fake.” What I mean by that is something as innocuous as taking whey protein and supplements to increase your performance, to putting in screws to your write to make your hand and arm function normally. Even though these prosthetic accessories should and can help you recover from an injury or increase your athletic performance, I believe that what you organically are born into the world with is what you should leave with as well.

This is obviously a flawed way of seeing the world.

You will be broken. You will suffer injuries and pain. With age, being able to recover from a 5-hour session of pickup will take longer than it used to. As hard as it is to accept, the faster you can come to the reality of your age and physical abilities, the happier you will become. I see guys who are in their 40s at the gym pushing themselves to get ripped and build mass, and a part of me respects them for wanting to get back into shape and beating the odds. The other part of me thinks they should slow down and avoid the risk of injury which could decrease their quality of life for the next 5-10 years.

The Prognosis

This is the mental backdrop to the recent injury I sustained while paying pickup. I felt me knee bend in a weird way but remember having a similar injury back in 2009 where I partially tore my MCL. A minor tear to the MCL will heal on its own through rest and ice. In my mind, I thought this was what had happened to my knee, and thought that it’s not the end of the world, I’ve done this before.

The physiatrist looked at me and made a long sigh, and I could sense he was uncomfortably trying to avoid eye contact. I knew that it was something serious, and that it would be far worse than the minor MCL tear I sustained more than 5 years ago

You tore your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is bad, and also some tears to the meniscus.

When he said ACL, I just thought, “this can’t be me.” I’ve never had knee problems and always worked on strengthening my quads, glutes, hamstrings, etc. and never thought the ACL injury could happen to me. The physiatrist said he was surprised I wasn’t more shocked by the news. I was shocked, terrified actually. But I didn’t know how to show it while sitting on the piece of butcher paper in the physiatrist’s office.

I’ve done all the research, consulted with friends, and decided surgery is the best route. 9-12 months of recovery, or 9-12 months of not playing basketball or any impact sport. For the first two weeks I was in denial and kept on thinking I could somehow avoid the surgery since I’m just such a superhuman freak of nature and don’t need my ACL.

In rare cases, there are actually people who don’t need their ACL since the strength of their other ligaments make up for instability when no ACL is present. I’m not one of those guys, unfortunately.

Preparing For Surgery

I am a voracious consumer of health information and appreciate when trainers and physical therapists cite numbers and actual studies to substantiate their claims. One guy I’ve come across is Brian Reddy, who explains the mental barrier many athletes face. He says that most people know that surgery will indeed fix their ACL and should help them return to a high impact sport. However, most athletes are not prepared mentally for the recovery process and all the dedication required for physical therapy.

This part of the surgery is what I’m most concerned about; being mentally prepared. My goal is not necessarily be able to play competitive basketball again, but rather have a healthy knee that allows me to live a regular life post surgery. I plan on keeping track of my recovery process via this blog, and would appreciate any comments or suggestions you have about going through ACL reconstruction.

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