Torn your ACL? Send us your story.

Peter Wehrwein

Contributor, Harvard Health

You may have heard or read about the Swedish study published in The New England Journal of Medicine that found no difference between surgical repair of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and taking a rehab-only approach.

Some of our favorite sports stars here in New England have torn their ACLs recently, including Wes Welker, a receiver for the Patriots, and Kendrick Perkins, a center for the Celtics. Both Welker and Perkins had surgery.

Of course, it’s not just elite pro athletes who suffer this injury. Plenty of us lesser mortals rip the ligament playing basketball at the Y, skiing at a nearby mountain, or just horsing around with the kids.

We’re working on an article about ACL tears for an upcoming issue of the Harvard Health Letter. We’d like to hear from you if you’ve torn your ACL or know someone who has. What was the pain like?  Did you choose surgery or rehab and why? Did you get a second opinion? What has your recovery been like? And what advice would you give others who have torn their ACL?

Your stories will help us write an accurate story that reflects what people really go through. And with your permission—and only with your permission—we’d  like share your account with readers of this blog and with people who visit the Harvard Health Publication Web site.

Please write and put ACL tear in the subject line.



  1. Anonymous

    Prolotherapy, actually PRP has been very helpful in mending a torn rotator cuff.

  2. Billy

    If you’re already reading this, you probably have torn your acl. Well you know it sucks to think that you won’t be the same old you. I tore my acl (left) playing soccer in november of 2009. The day I will never forget. At the time I didn’t know it was my acl being torn. Everytime I was on the field, I’ve always given 100%. That day, I was late for practice game and decided to jump in right away without any warm-ups. Too bad I didn’t realize that a little warm up could have saved my career. Just 5 minutes into the game, me and a defender chased after the ball. As we reached the endline, I tried to keep the ball in, but the defender pushed me real hard. My whole body turned to the left side, but my leg didn’t. I heard a pop, an excrutiating pain,(I have never in my life felt something this bad before). I was on the ground for 2 minutes, holding my knee as it hurt real bad. That night, I limped on one leg and went home. For two weeks, I couldn’t straighten nor bend my knee. It was literally locked in the middle. I would wake up in the middle of the night due to the pain. I never went to the hospital because I lived alone and I didn’t really think it was a huge deal. Yea I know Im dumb. For two years, the same thing happened everytime I collided or made contact with others while playing soccer. No matter how safe I tried to play, the same stuff happened. The last one, I jumped from a 7ft fence (forgot that I had a bad leg). Finally 2011 April I decided to see a doctor. I was diagnosed with comtplete torn acl, torn lateral meniscus, and bone fracture. I backed up just 2 days before surgery because honestly I wasn’t financially able to pay the bill. I should have gone to the doctor the first time it happened. So, I advice you to go the doctor as soon as you feel like something is wrong. At least you will have partial torn acl I guess. ALWAYS WARM UP. Don’t push yourself to the limit guys! Good luck and be careful. DO NOT BE LIKE ME.

  3. Dan

    I guess prevention is better than cure. That’s why in every fitness activity or sports your taking it pays to learn how to avoid instances like this, eg. acl.

  4. Krishna

    Good Post Karl. I agree with Chad prevention is way more better than cure this applies in almost all circumstances. I had the same issue but I was okay with that anyway. Thanks for Posting.

  5. Chris

    I tore my ACL back in 89 when I was in recruit training. I suffered alot of pain until I finished the course and went to my unit. I was diagnosed properly there and was given the option of rehab, as in those days it was usually an 6inch scar job and an unhealthy discharge rate. But after a leg collapse during an exercise period, I opted to have surgery.
    British military hospitals had not got the best of reputations from within back then, so it was with a little trepidation that I went under the knife.
    I was a lucky young man as I was on the ‘right’ side of the ward, and my surgeon carried out keyhole surgery on me. The other half got the butchers knife… I should explain; that in military hospitals in those days, they got a whole batch of men with the same problem and brought them into hospital on the same day and conveyor belted you through the operating theatre.
    My operation didn’t quite go according to plan as I had a CLR as well.
    I pretty much spent the next 6 months on light duties, the crazy thing is; I was given absolutely no physio or aftercare at all after the op. Just some ibuprofen, a tubie grip and some crutches.
    And after all that later medical mismanagement, I have not had a problem with that knee since. Just goes to show I suppose, that surgeon must have really known his stuff.
    Just as a side note, I traveled from my unit with 3 other guys who were all subsequently medically discharged with their injuries, they were all on the wrong side of the ward?

    Hope my story helps with your research Peter.

  6. Chad Waterbury Fan

    I guess prevention is better than cure. That’s why in every fitness activity or sports your taking it pays to learn how to avoid instances like this, eg. acl.

    [URL removed by moderator]

  7. Anonymous

    I had such a great time reading your article. I enjoy each & every bit of it. It was really informative. I feel strongly about it and got knowledge more on this subject.

  8. south dakota dentist

    Thanks Karla nice story. I like your way posting the story.

  9. tommyfun

    Seven years ago (age 30) I was told I partially tore my MCL. I didn’t have surgery they said it would heal on it’s own. It feels better but I still feel it to this day when I run or bike.

  10. Karla

    I tore my acl about 10 years ago. Was misdiagnosed with a minor mcl tear. Was told it would heal on its own. Being 23 and with an incredible tolorance to pain I kept going and within a few months was back on my feet, limping anyway. It was honestly some of the worst pain I have ever felt. I am an athlete but I tore my acl out being stupid one night. Drinking alcohol and being the dare devil that I am I took a leap of faith and landed on my butt.

    I was trying to reach professional level in golf. That has always been my passion. I was very close but noticed that my lower back and hip was painful after about 2 rounds. I couldn’t last long enough to pull it off. Nov. 15 2010 I was diagnosed with an acl tear. Wow what a shock. I had no idea.

    My surgeon said I would never reach my goal without ACL Recon. We scheduled the surgery for Dec. 3 2010. Keep in mind my knee wasn’t bothering me at all. I had my doubts and did my research online and only really saw stories of people that had problems or weren’t happy. I was really scared.

    I am 33 and in perfect health…..aside from the acl. So I feared and didn’t sleep and had anxiety attacks until that day arrived. I have never been so scared over anything. The staff at the hospital was fabulous. They brought me in and gave me an IV. They had to give me a happy pill for my nerves. I was a wreck. My husband sat with me and comforted me until it was time. Seemed like forever. They put me in the wheelchair and sat me on the bed in the operating room I thought I was going to shake to death. I was sooooo scared. All the people with masks on and the bright lights. The anesthesiologist came over and put his hand on my forehead and said I am going to give you something to calm your nerves………then I woke up. LOL I was in recovery.

    I am telling anyone out there who is scared of surgery and reading all the bad posts online and all the doubters. You can not compare yourself to anyone. I read the posts and was so comsumed in comparing me to everyone else. I was wrong and I want for everyone to know that my surgery and recovery has been wonderful. Yes there has been some minor discomfort and a little pain. NOTHING like I have read about. I followed my surgeons directions to a tee. I also had one of the best surgeons in the area.

    I am 2 weeks post op. I have minor muscle atrophy. I have no crutches or brace. I am walking around pain free. No meds. An aleve now and then. I went with the cadaver. Less problems and less pain. No lie. Awesome. I should be able to swing a golf club in 2 to 3 months.

    For anyone who is concidering surgery. If you want to help yourself in the long run get the surgery. After my first post op visit I actually found out I had no acl. They tell you that you can survive without one. Sure but I would have still been in alot and I mean alot of pain. So this is my story. I can honestly say that this was nothing compared to what I was afraid of. I hope this helps some one out there. Have faith and remember that fear is normal. If you were not scared then I would be worried.

  11. Michael Berry

    For two years I was working as a Rehab Fitness Trainer at 2HSB a military hospital in Brisbane, Australia and helped with the recovery of lots of ACL patients.
    At the hospital we had a physio wing with 8-10 physiotherapists that had to deal with all nature of injuries and just around the corner we had the Rehab offices with dedicated physio, fitness trainer, doctor, return to work co-ordinator and admin stafff.
    The physio would see the patient pre op and teach them their inital exercises, they would have the op most had a hamstring graft, the rehab physio would see them in the ward in the hospital 1 day post op. The patient would have a couple of days off then start full time rehab.
    Most patients lived onsite in the rehab wing, in their day they all had individual physio work, time to do injury specific exercises, a small selection of fixed weights, and some education in some health area.
    As they progressed they had time in the hydrotherapy pool and started doing more upperbody exercise.
    As the physio work advanced they would drop off the full brace to a hinged brace and eventually come from crutches to a stick.
    After some time in hydrotherapy they would start some swimming (after lots of closed chain work and healing time) and even then it was mainly upper body with a fig 8 float. Over time the swim would progress and along the way they had minor coaching.
    Wieght training advanced. Time was spent on the bikes getting a full range of motion and slow spinning.
    Eventually the physio work was handed over to very light physical training with restrictions, but still ongoing physio treatment.
    By the time we were finished the return to run program and built the leg back up with weights they were also very good at swimming and had diet advice, learned more about their bodies with health education, had an understanding of continuation training and were well placed to start back in the workplace but because the army has a higher fitness requirement the return to work coordinator would adjust their work responsibilities and I would still see them a number of times a week but with the return to work group instead of the rehab group.

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