Climbing with an ACL tear

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 ellierees 24 Jun 2015
Five weeks ago I took a fall bouldering and injured my knee. Had an MRI scan which showed that I had stretched my MCL and completely ruptured my ACL. I have already had ACL reconstruction surgery 7 years ago and they are unsure whether the ACL tear is a result of the fall, or happened some time ago. 5 weeks on I can walk with no pain, and cycle and climb in a brace (but only easy routes).

If I have torn my ACL some years ago (as my doctor suspects) this means I've been climbing without an ACL for years, and probably learnt to climb without one. I'm unsure whether to get reconstruction surgery again. Does anybody have any experience of this or know anybody that climbs without an ACL? I would be grateful for any advice.

 philipivan 24 Jun 2015
In reply to ellierees:

I tore my ACL completely in my left leg (and probably other ligaments) over 10 years ago. I climbed before I did this, but probably climbed better after I did it. I've tried to keep up exercises like cycling and general strengthening. Be very careful when bouldering to avoid and awkward fall but generally when I've fallen flat onto a mat or in my harness but against the rock its been fine.

Obviously you need to be care with certain sorts of moves not to get into the sort of position where you might put a lot of pressure on it. I've avoided high rockovers (or used the other leg) and some egyptians can be awkward but you find a way around most stuff. As I say, overall my grade has probably increased.
In reply to ellierees:
> Does anybody have any experience of this or know anybody that climbs without an ACL? I would be grateful for any advice.

Yes, right knee. Non functioning ACL for, eh, well no one knows, but consultant thought in excess of 20 yrs. Only came to light when I had an op 6/7 years ago for torn cartilage! Consultant was convinced it was the normal use of the knee and my active hobbies keeping strength in and around the knee and the leg in general that kept everything working without me knowing. I reckon I know the accident that cause the original tearing of ACL and if I'm right it was 30 years ago. Back then, young and stupid, I did not seek medical advice and carried on as normal!

Without a functioning ACL I've hill walked, skied, climbed, scrambled, mountain biked/cycled, run, etc, besides manual work. I do not do much of all that now, except MTB, but that is for other reasons, mainly OA, and not the lack of a functioning ACL. Only problems I ever had were caused by the cartilage op which upset the "tightness" of the joint, tendons, ligaments, strength of muscles and of the tracking of the knee itself which caused mainly general looseness of the joint and hyper extension for about three years. Now rarely happens, although I do get muscle imbalance.

I was refused a reconstruction due to the length of time I had done without an ACL that it was deemed unnecessary. Only downsides is since the op I do need to keep the muscle strength up, so walk and cycle regularly, and very important is to keep the three many muscles groups in the leg in balance. This means specific training, and lots of appropriate stretching. If only the cartilage had not torn, I would likely never had known!

Specifically, with climbing, I have never altered anything due to the lack of ACL functioning, before never knew of the "problem" and after the op, just as normal. Now though can't climb much but that is OA, and not due to ACL.

If you are going to leave as is, can I suggest be patient for a while building up slowly, get a good Physio for specific training exercises, and if necessary (for me anyway) a good sports masseuse for the imbalance of the muscle groups.

Hope that helps.
Any question, feel free to ask.

 donrobson 25 Jun 2015
In reply to ellierees:

I ruptured my ACL and with meniscal injury too
There is a variation between people in how stable a knee is without an ACL - I was told I had a stable knee and did not have a reconstruction. Since then I climbed for many years but had recurrent meniscal injury playing badminton!
I have some oa as Mr Pieman and am unsure if this is due to lack of ACL or the meniscal surgery
I would thoroughly agree with his comments about maintaining muscle tone and stretching during recovery and then for the rest of your active life

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