Day 1: The Road to ACL Recovery

I recently tore my left ACL. Seven years ago I tore my right ACL, so this completes the set. That remains the most painful injury of my life, and the long, tedious, often agony-inducing path to rehab tried me harder than perhaps any challenge I’ve faced.

This time I’m more psychologically prepared, and want to keep a running tab on the recovery process. This will be helpful to me, but hopefully also to anyone about to go under the knife. If you have any tips, questions or commiserating about ACL recovery, this is a welcoming space.

Day 1 Strategy

The first few days after ACL surgery, the sensation of moving one’s leg induces a heinous version of pins and needles shooting through your entire leg. Painkillers reduce the throbbing pain, but not the pain of moving.

To this end, my fiancee Anna and I set up a mattress in the living room, to minimize the number of steps I’ll be from anywhere in the apartment – the fridge, the bathroom, the television, etc.

On Day 1 I’ll be moving as little as possible. We have acquired copious ice. I’ve got enough books to last a week and all the relevant electronics within arms reach of the bed.


The day of the surgery you have to be at the hospital by 7:30am. It is slushing outside in the ugliest way possible. I’m glad I”m not on crutches yet as I head out the door.

Day 1 Report

Surgery went swimmingly.  It was a little alarming to start the morning with about a dozen doctors and nurses who roamed in between 7:30am and 10:30am, all nonchalantly asking which knee, or in some cases, what type of procedure I was having. But once things got moving, the Hospital for Special Surgery ran like a well oiled machine.

The anesthesiologist seemed regretful when he pricked me, as his son was at my elementary alma mater, St. Hilda’s and St. Hughes, and he was wondering how to get him into Collegiate, my high school alma mater, and he was pricking my brain on the schools.

I woke up from anesthesia with the procedure long over, and the bottom half of my body number. It took almost two hours to feel my toes, and what a joy that was. I also had to pee, but wasn’t sure my bladder could react. This is apparently a thing, and when I finally did pee it took several minutes.

I felt virtually no pain until many hours after the surgery. This is because in addition to being given general anesthesia, I was administered locally in my upper leg. That anesthesia takes 12-20 hours to wear off, which is why pain is starting to flood in around now (2am).

Even so, I don’t feel the constant pins and needles that accompanied my right ACL surgery in 2008. Fingers crossed for tomorrow, which is probably going to be the low point of the whole recovery process. Nowhere to go but up.

Doc says I can start quad pinches as early as tomorrow, and leg raises in a few days. His assistant thinks leg raises can start sooner than that. I am beyond excited to try some of these exercises, which I know very well by now, before my first PT session, which will be in about a week.


About Janos Marton

Janos Marton is a lawyer, advocate and writer.
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3 Responses to Day 1: The Road to ACL Recovery

  1. Adam S says:

    Get well soon, man. Let me know if you need anything.

  2. Cynthia says:

    Wow. Thanks for these post. ..i am scared to death..i had my surgery on 4/01/15…these post are a comfort to me

    • janos marton says:

      You’re going to be great! From here you’ll get a little bit better every day. Just be serious about your exercises and cautious with getting around while your leg is still weak. And feel free to ask any questions here!

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