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Can You Return to Top Performance After ACL Surgery?

September 12, 2011

The world of sports is full of miracles. This so-called miracle usually involves the underdog upsetting the favorite in an improbable comeback, but most of the time when the word “miracle” is used to describe some aspect of sports, it’s sensational, exaggerated and flat-out overblown until now. Nearly three years ago a young Longhorn’s tight end by the name of Blaine Irby was given a prognosis that would’ve shattered a lot of athletes hopes.

During a game in the 2008 season, Irby took a blow that injured his ACL, LCL, meniscus, cartilage, articular cartilage, muscle tendons and a personnel nerve. Due to the loss of motor function in his foot, doctors gave Irby about a 2% chance to run again. But Irby didn’t give up.

To make a long story short, after three surgeries he opted to undergo compression and with the help of trainers and doctors and the support of family, friends and coaches, Irby is now playing with the Longhorn’s again.

The Only True Sports Miracle

Irby’s was a devastating injury. To be back on the field and playing in three years after the severity of his injury, in my mind, qualifies as a miracle. Fortunately most ACL injuries are not as devastating as Irby’s. They are normally season-ending, but never career ending. And the truth of the matter is this: you can return to top performance after ACL surgery.

How do you know when you’ve torn your ACL? It’s pretty obvious mostly because of the popping sound that occurs. Other signs to look for include swelling in your knee, unbearable pain, a shift in your knee joint and not being able to bend your knee.

Is ACL Reconstructive Surgery for You?

Because you’ve torn your ACL doesn’t mean you are crippled. In fact, many people with torn ACLs can function normally. It really just depends upon the severity of your injury. This means you might be able to avoid reconstructive surgery, especially if your job and life do not require a functional ACL and you don’t have a unstable knee, but ignoring the pain and symptoms of a torn ACL can also lead to life-long issues, like premature arthritis. Talk to your doctor about your options.

Dr. Rick Lehman is a distinguished orthopedic surgeon in St. Louis, Missouri and an articular cartilage reconstruction pioneer He owns U. S. Sports Medicine in Kirkwood, MO, and LehmanHealth. Learn more about Dr. Rick.


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