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Merritt Island, FL 32953

Phone: (321) 986-8812

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ACL Tear? Is Surgery really needed?

Written by: Stephen Baughn

In all walks of life we are asked what is most important to us.  As we age those things change, sometimes every couple of years.  In January of 2013 I was approaching my 33rd birthday, I had an almost 2 year old son and my wife was 3 months pregnant.  What was most important to me a decade ago most certainly had changed by this time.  Having played soccer for about 15 years, coached soccer for another 8, played baseball, football, ran track, and in general used and abused my body growing up, my knees had really started to feel the pain.  

By December of 2003 I had completed my 3rd arthroscopic surgery on my right knee for various ailments to include a meniscus tear and patellar chondromalacia.  I hated the recovery and for not even being a professional athlete I thought it was ridiculous that I had to go through all of the surgeries.  I decided to take matters into my own hands....and did nothing. 

Years went by and the pain only got worse.  At the time I was coaching Amado's son, Logan, in competitive soccer for Central Brevard Soccer.  We were just finishing up our Regional Qualifying tournament.  Logan mentioned to Amado that I was always complaining about my knee pain.  Amado instantly offered up his assistance to me and just briefly gave me a few stretches I could do.  As most patients do....I didn't listen.  Another month went by and I finally went to the orthopedic doctor that had helped me with my shoulder a few years back.  I went in for a quick consultation and he pulled my knees, yes knees, multiple directions and said he thought both of them had torn ACL's.  I thought to myself, that doesn't make sense, I see professional athletes unable to walk with torn ACL's.  I was still able to run, kick, jump, etc albeit with a good amount of pain before, after, and in between.  So they sent me for an MRI on both knees.  The MRI came back and they showed me the results and said that it "looked like the right knee ACL was approximately 60% torn and the left knee ACL was approximately 50% torn".  They immediately wanted to do surgery to replace BOTH of my ACL's.  Nevermind that they didn't even once consider other alternatives.  Forget the fact that they didn't consider that my wife was immeasurably sick from the pregnancy where days she was bed ridden.  Who cares that I had a two year old son and another on the way, oh and work that required me to travel.  The very first thing that entered my head was skepticism. 

I sent a message to a friend that runs a surgery center and his advice was that if this doctor was recommending it then it probably needed to be done because he was the best.  It all just didn't make sense to me.  I wasn't fully grasping it.  I understood what a weak ACL could do to your knee, but I didn't understand how if it was torn that I was able to do all these things still, yes with pain, but I was still capable of doing them, surely there had to be another way.

This was when I finally called Amado and asked if I could come in.  He put me through an initial battery of tests.  Most people are reluctant and annoyed.  To me, this showed how thorough he was, that he was not only interested in just my knee, but to try and figure out why my ACL's were tearing gradually.  He wanted to find the root cause of that because if you replace the ACL and you have the same problem, it's only going to occur again. 

After a few tests, several questions, and some watching of me performing some activities, which took less than an hour I'd say, Amado had made a discovery as to what was really causing my knee pain/ACL issues.  For years I have had a problem with my hip flexor, and it mostly exacerbates itself when I play golf.  Amado described exactly how everything was related.  For me, my hip flexor problem was causing pain not just in my knee but also my back and it was all related to that.  Amado also realized that the way that I normally walk with my feet protruding out at about a 30 degree angle like a duck causes unnecessary stress on the body as well.  Over the years, my lack of stretching combined with my hip flexor issue caused my hamstrings to tighten up.  When the hamstrings shortened between the back of my knee and my gluteus, it basically meant the muscle supporting my knee had disappeared.  In doing so, my knee was essentially supporting itself.  Always having very strong leg muscles I never thought that a shortened muscle would be able to cause so many issues. 

Amado was convinced that if I did Physical Therapy for a few months with him a few days a week, and then maintained those stretches, exercises, and strength workout that this would help alleviate my pain and help keep my ACL from tearing any further, thus eliminating the immediate need for surgery. 

After 2 months of Physical Therapy going 3 days a week, I was finally ready for him to put me through the same battery of tests from the beginning of our first session.  The change in my flexibility was amazing, never in my life had I been able to bend over and touch my toes and I could now.  I was able to walk down stairs without pain, something unheard of for me before PT. 

It is now almost two years later, I haven't had my ACL's replaced, I still travel a lot, went hiking in Alaska and Canada, coach my son's soccer team, swim with the kids in the pool, run on the beach, and all thanks to Amado and his team at A&M Therapy.

I ask that you not only think twice about surgery, but ask for a consult from a Physical Therapist, not only could it save you a lot of money, but it could also help save you from having a surgery.