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ACL Reconstruction W1: First Week Post Op and What to Expect

Updated on February 23, 2014
A ruptured ACL that would require surgery in order to fix
A ruptured ACL that would require surgery in order to fix

The Acl
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament. The Major Stabilising ligament within the knee. Its main purpose in its seemingly fragile life is to stop your knee from Dislocating whenever you ‘cut’ or change direction quite quickly. It is one of the most common sports related knee injuries, and also one of the most PAINFUL.

When a person Ruptures or Tears their Acl, it is usually from changing direction too quickly and overloading the poor little ligament. A ‘POP’ sensation is felt, followed by the inability to properly walk, and MAJOR swelling. It connects the Tibia and Femur, and is meant to prevent the tibia moving Outside of its joint line. When your Acl is six feet under though, your knee will dislocate when the wind changes direction.

A common way that ACL's are ruptured in Rugby
A common way that ACL's are ruptured in Rugby

Why am I telling you all this?

Well, I was one of the fortunate people to experience this debilitating injury.

*Cue Flashback*
It was my 5th game into the Rugby Union season, and I was playing 2nd row due to my height. I’d played many games of rugby before, so I had no reason to be worried about anything that would come my way. Even though I weighed in at a measly 70kg, I was able to play smart with my body. We were playing a much better side this day, but I wasn’t playing to win, so I was fine if we Lost. It was Kick off, we were playing at home receiving with ample amounts of sun glare. As the ball struck their kickers boot, I immediately knew something was wrong with this kick, the ball was coming for me. I tossed my doubts aside and prepared myself to receive the ball. As it spiralled closer and closer towards me, a 100kg forward was ready to strike me down. As soon as the ball entered the cradle that I had constructed for it with my thin arms, I was struck with a tremendous thud from this oversized forward, right in the side of the knee.

Long story short, I was tackled in the Side of the knee, felt a massive pop, and fell like a sack of potatoes. My Acl was no more.

How did you rupture your ACL?

See results
MRI of a Ruptured ACL
MRI of a Ruptured ACL

Initial diagnosis
At first, the physio and medic though that my cartilage had run off its usual desired track. So over the next 6 months I tried to get it better without an MRI, and knowledge that my Acl was gone. At this point I simply thought that my knee was aggravated, and the Dislocating was due to muscle wastage.

After I badly dislocated my knee for the 7th time, I realised that enough was enough, and decided to get an MRI, something I really should have done right away.

The news wasn’t good, and I was advised that I had a Grade 3 ACL Rupture. This meant that it was completely separated from the bone, and there was no hippie medicine or online magic pill that was bringing the little guy back.

Surgery

I am currently a week out from surgery, after having my ACL reconstructed using parts of my Hamstring. The Surgery is only about 90 minutes, however mine was 30 minutes longer because I had a bucket handle Meniscus repair performed at the same time. (The cartilage that acts as a shock absorber between your tibia and femur)

I had my perennial nerve flooded with local anaesthetics to prevent any sort of feeling within my right leg. I was also doped up on morphine, codeine and fentanyl, a concoction that I never want to ingest again. The pain at the hospital was very bearable, as I was still coming down from a high like no other, however, when I got home, things changed dramatically.

My Knee 7 days post op in a range of motion brace. This restricts me from bending my knee past 90 degrees so that I don't damage my newly repaired meniscus.
My Knee 7 days post op in a range of motion brace. This restricts me from bending my knee past 90 degrees so that I don't damage my newly repaired meniscus.

Arriving Home

If you're reading this before your Acl/Meniscus/Knee surgery, be prepared. Make sure that you have your house set up for a disabled person, because trust me, for the first week you really are disabled.

Make sure that you have someone who can look after you for long periods at a time, as you’ll be spending 95% of your time lying/sitting down for the first week. The only real times you get up are to go to the toilet or to go to bed (Provided you aren’t already there).

Pain
The pain that comes with an ACL reconstruction is Immense. You really will be going through quite some pain. However, this is all very manageable with the Painkillers that you will be provided with when discharged from your hospital. I was prescribed panadine forte, which contains low doses of codeine, and Endone, which contains Oxycodone.

I started to break out into pretty severe hives a few days after a few days of taking the codeine, and apparently have a late onset reaction to it. It makes your body to produce excess histamine, which is responsible for causing hives. So be cautious when taking these painkillers, as you might have an allergic reaction to them. Some antihistamine did the trick for me, and I simply discontinued using the drugs.

After about day 5, I was starting to bear any weight on my leg. On day 6 I received a new brace, one which would limit my Range of motion and support my leg for walking. This helped greatly, and I am now able to walk around the house without a crutch, which was becoming a real burden to carry around everywhere.

To conclude
Make sure that you have your house set up and ready for your return home, you are going to be really hard pressed to walk around properly for the first few days. Make sure that you aren’t reacting to the painkillers, and keep a close eye on any symptoms that you may develop. The first week will go slowly, but it’s a week down on your road to Recovery!

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