Allan Hernandez is a skateboarder who suffers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and has returned to his passion, skateboarding. His injury occurred during a skating trip with some friends. He was popping some Ollies which he was good at when suddenly he kicked out. As he fell, his knee bared the weight of the fall but he didn’t hear a pop sound so he simply went to rest. He got home to put an ice pack on it but over time his knee began to swell.
Unfortunately, he wasn’t immediately diagnosed with a torn ACL until almost three months later. However, he did go into physical therapy with the knowledge that his leg might never go back to how it used to be. He credits the strengthening of the muscles around his knee to therapy and regular workouts on the bike in the gym.
Allan’s story is one of perseverance and hard work. To shed some more light on if you can skateboard with a torn ACL, we’ll need to learn all there is to learn about ACL.
Let’s have a quick biology lesson. Your ACL binds your tibia to your femur. Your tibia is your shin bone while your femur is your thigh bone. Its biological function is to provide rotational stability to your knee when you run, land, or jump. If you notice, you can’t rotate your leg and walk straight at the same time.
A lot of people, athletes most especially, suffer from torn ACLs. Recent studies have shown that 1 in 3000 Americans suffer from torn ACLs and this lets you know that it is quite common not to mention the fact that it is a very common injury among skateboarders.
Torn ACLs occur when your knee gets twisted or there’s a forceful impact on it. Many times, people hear a pop. This is a dead giveaway for torn ACLs. When the ACL tears, your knee swells, and lack of immediate treatment could lead to it containing lots of fluid. This is quite painful and could render those suffering from it an absolute lack of mobility. They would not be able to run or practice the sports they love. Going to the hospital would require a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) check as ACL tears can’t be diagnosed using x-rays. Torn ACLs are best treated between a week and two weeks after they occur.
First-Aid Treatment for Torn ACLs
Immediately you hear the pop and feel pain in your knee simply remember the RICE treatment. It involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Ensure you rest and stop moving your knee, apply ice to your knee to reduce the swelling, wrap a bandage around your knee and lastly keep your knee elevated to prevent it from bearing any load.
Recommendations from Your Doctor
All treatments for a torn ligament must be recommended by your doctor and you should maybe seek second and third opinions from other doctors to know what actions to take.
Depending on the age of the skateboarder and severity of the tear, treatments may vary. These treatments could be surgical or non-surgical. In Allan’s case, he opted for non-surgical treatment. Non-surgical treatments usually include physical therapy, strengthening and conditioning, and ACL bracing. The period of recovery varies from person to person but an estimated period of seven to nine months is how long it takes for the knee to regain stability.
Surgical treatments in which your ACL could be reconstructed may be recommended if you do intend on continuing your sport. The swelling around the knee has to be reduced first. The ligament is reconstructed via a tissue graft. The tissue could be obtained from the patient’s body (autografts) or from a cadaver (allografts). After which a team of therapists and doctors will continually monitor the strength and stability of your knee. The rehabilitation period for ACL surgeries takes about eight weeks after which intense therapy occurs for about five months. Like the nonsurgical treatment, the rate of recovery varies from person to person.
How to Deal with the Fear of Returning to Skateboarding After an ACL Injury
The biggest fear for most skateboarders after tearing their ACL is having it tear once again. Not only are they scared of re-injury, they now fear falling, skating and many other things related to the accident. It is a crippling fear that drives some to give up the sport entirely. There is no one size fits all formula for overcoming this post-traumatic skating disorder as it is a deeply personal experience. The advice many skateboarders who have gotten back to their feet give is to see a physical therapist. Therapy helps you regain the strength and confidence you’ll need to resume skating.
How do Survivors Describe their First Time Skateboarding after Recovery from an ACL Tear?
For YouTuber Professor Shred who tried skating for the first time in five months after his ACL injury, he said he felt awesome. At first, he stretched and exercised by squatting with resistance bands and then skipping. Then he began skating. It was somewhat difficult popping but he did try a few tricks such as kickflip, heelflip, frontside flip, and 360 flips. They weren’t fluid but he said his knee didn’t feel the same. Also, he did feel a slight twinge of pain but he hopes to get better through constant exercising and practice.
The road to recovery from an ACL injury involves you giving your knee ample time to heal. Do not rush the process. Don’t go skateboarding after six weeks just because you have the itch to do so. Start small. Learn to walk before anything else. Eat healthily and take your dietary supplements like glucosamine, fish oil, and chondroitin which help your cartilage and joints.
Regularly keep up with your physical therapy which could involve low impact exercises like bikes, swimming, elliptical machines, and stretching. The fear of re-injury is very real. Read books and watch videos about those who’ve recovered and their journey. You’ll need to surround yourself with lots of love and positivity. Stay blessed.
 ACL –Link