I've read some other posts about ACL tears/partial tears, and I want to get input from others who have sustained this injury. Here's my story:
About a year ago, I was playing basketball when another player who is much larger than I am plowed into me from the side. My foot was firmly planted at the time (I've read cases where this scenario is common in ACL tears). I felt something wrong occur in my knee, and I fell over. I got back up after a moment and tried to continue playing, but something just didn't feel right. The next day, I got on a plane back home. The injury occurred while I was out of town for Spring Break. When I got off the plane, my leg was really stiff. I figured the plane ride made my knee situation worse, but I wasn't too worried about it because I wasn't in a lot of pain. At first, I couldn't fully extend my injured leg, but the difference between leg extension in my injured and uninjured legs was very slight in my opinion.
Still, I felt something was off, so I ended up going to my university's health clinic for diagnosis. My doctor performed the Lachman test and suspected I had a torn ACL. He referred me to the sports medicine doctor. In the meantime, he gave me a knee immobilizer and told me to keep off my leg as much as possible & ice the knee for the next few days. When I saw the sports medicine doctor, he also performed the Lachman test and confirmed I had torn my ACL. He also said I had muscle atrophy from the injury. The difference in muscle between my right & left leg muscles was very significant. I was used to my leg muscles bulging out; after injury, my left muscle looked like it was completely gone.
I was able to participate in "prehab"--physical therapy before surgery. Since I was uninsured and since the dr said I could technically live without my ACL, I decided to postpone surgery until I had insurance. At PT, my therapist took regular measurements of my knee so he could track the rate of swelling. Some of the exercises I was completely unable to do right after injury--specifically, standing on the injured leg and bending at the knee to touch the ground (or edge of the bed in my case, but I couldn't even bend that far). With hard work, I was eventually able to successfully perform that exercise and still do it on a regular basis now.
I haven't been the best at keeping up with my PT exercises, which I am supposed to do daily. My muscle has recovered to an extent, but it still isn't as big as the one on my uninjured leg. I basically have NO pain at all. Recently, after finally getting health insurance through my employer, I decided to follow-up on my knee. My general practitioner referred me to an orthopedic specialist. Unfortunately, the guy I ended up seeing is primarily a foot/ankle dr, not a knee dr. He ordered an MRI. I just met with him this morning, and he said the MRI showed a normal ACL, and the only abnormal thing is some swelling. The printout of the results says "Normal MRI of the left knee except for small joint effusion."
I know I should be happy, but I can't help but think the MRI was wrong in light of all the information I was given at the initial time of injury. Keep in mind that the MRI was just taken--about a year post-injury. Even though the MRI says I'm "normal," the current dr. says my knee is still loose when performing the Lachman test. However, he thinks I can safely go back to playing high-impact sports.
My question is, could my ACL possibly be intact? My gut says to get a second opinion.
I don't look forward to having knee surgery, but I DO want to go back to playing sports. For the past year, all I've been doing is walking, biking, and using an elliptical machine. The sports medicine dr. warned me not to play high-impact sports until I had knee surgery, for fear of causing greater injury to my knee (tearing the meniscus, etc.).
I wish there was a way to test my knee's stability without potentially causing greater damage to it.
By the way, I have no pain, which from what I've read is common with only an ACL tear (unlike the MCL). Also, I've not had any problem of my knee giving out on me, but again, I haven't been playing high-impact sports since the injury.
What do you folks think? Is it safe for me to play? Should I trust the MRI? Thanks in advance for your responses.