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  1. #1
    AKL Guest

    Default ACL injury and riding

    Hi, I am sorry I did not know if this should be here or under off course, but I tore my ACL skiing over Christmas (panicked and fell on ice on a blue run) and am trying to decide if I need to have the surgery or not. The doctor says I don't need my ACL to ride but since I can't know how much he might or might not know about riding, I wanted to come ask somewhere people might know. Non horsey types seem to sometimes think riding isn't exercise!
    I was riding dressage and was thinking about getting my confidence back for jumping. For financial reasons, I won't be able to ride again for awhile anyway (I love horses, but I'm not willing to become horse poor), this is more just wanting to know if I want to ride again, should I plan on doing the surgery? What if it was just trail riding?
    I know someone who hurt her ACL by being bucked off, but didn't know if that necessarily meant you use it in actually riding. Thanks!
    I am back to exercising by walking and going to the gym already.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug. 19, 2009


    I tore my ACL, and had various smooshed bone chips in my right knee. I had the repair done with my own tendon. I had a very aggressive surgeon, and was off crutches in 5 days. PT was very rough, and when I pedaled the bike backwards, once, all the way around, I cried. It is not an easy rehab. It took about 2 years before my knee felt like it wouldn't explode out when I knelt or bent it forward. Now, it feels like a fairly regular knee. I had surgery in 2003.

    Last April, I tore the ACL in my left knee, along with seriously bruised bones from the impact. I was told by my surgeon not to ride for at least 8 weeks due to the severity of the injury. I lasted 5, and probably should have waited the full 8. Without an ACL, you lose a lot of stability and support. Anyway, at this point, I just don't have the time for another surgery, and while my left knee is not fully stable, it is functional enough to ride. I do have significant pain in my knees during and after riding, but have found ibuprofen before riding, and icing after does help. The jointed stirrups are a godsend--- before I got them, after hunting for 3 hours I was unable to straighten my knees for about 30 minutes after dismounting. My horses are saints about my dismounts, which are full neck hugs while slithering off their sides.

    Anyway, no, you don't really need your ACL to trail ride, but it sure does help! And, you do risk a lot more bone on bone knee action without one, which can result in the joys of arthritis.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug. 16, 2003


    I was bucked off my horse on October 25. Suffered an ACL tear and grade 1 sprain of the MPL. Had surgery on December 4 to reconstruct my torn ACL. I had a cadaver graft. You have the option of using one of your own tendons but the recovery for the cadaver graft surgery is supposed to be faster and less painful so I opted for that.

    I had to do 4 weeks of PT before surgery to build up the strength and ROM in my leg. Started up again 1 week post surgery. I go twice a week and will keep on going for another month. You will get tons of exercises to do at home, getting progressively harder each time. Having a treadmill and recumbant bike at home will help. I am on both of those everyday. I won't lie-the rehab is tough and loooong. My orthopedic surgeon gave me the timeline of 1)being able to ride again in March, 2)being able to go back to full duty at work [I'm a vet tech] in May, and 3)not having the muscle strength in the leg that I had before my injury for 2 YEARS!!!

    Also tough about this injury, and any long term leg injury, is the mental toll it takes on you. I have spent days in bed, not even getting up to shower, due to the depression. This is a common problem-it happens to alot of us. People saying things like "it could've been worse" or "it's only temporary" mean well but it will just make you feel worse. Try to surround yourself with positive people! I am looking into seeing a sports psychologist.

    There is a great thread over on Off Course titled -bucked off, broken bones- that has a ton of great info and support for those of us suffering from debilitating injuries. It is several pages long now but worth the read. I know it always makes me feel better.

    So the burning question. Would I repair an ACL? Yes. You may not really need it for trail riding, but for jumping definately. Also for just working around horses. These are big animals and you don't want to be worried about your knee giving out while handling them. Like Timely Impulse said, your ACL keeps your knee stable and supported. And not having an ACL can lead to arthritis, then you'll need a knee replacement because you're too painful to walk!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug. 16, 2007


    I too have a torn ACL. I did not do the surgery. Because I ride I have enough muscle to support the knee and it does not bend back anymore.

    It did take a long time to heal. It happened over 10 years ago and it does not bother me when I ride.

    You can always get the repair done. You don't have to jump right in. Get second opinions.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug. 25, 2004


    I have had ACL's in both knees repaired. If it is a half or more torn, you should get it repaired unless you are at an age winding down your activities. If it is only partially or a little torn, then you can usually just let it heal.

    My first one 20 years ago has some scar tissue, which bothers me sometimes if the stirrups are too short (jumping, when I used to play polo, etc.), but never with dressage. The one that I had fixed 10 years ago, never bothers me.

    The rebabs are not fun, but the surgery now-adays is very well done. More of a longer term issue is whether your cartilage was damaged since that triggers arthritis.

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