Tearing and repairing my ACL

two men playing basketball


A torn ACL is one of the most common knee injuries for sports players, whether they’re professionals or just playing in social leagues. Two years ago, 36-year-old Sports Administrator and basketball enthusiast SAM MACINTOSH knew something was amiss when he crumpled on the court in pain after a rebound gone bad. Here, he shares his long road to recovery.


I tore my ACL playing basketball. I was playing socially at the time, but I was also playing in a few competitive leagues during the rest of the week. I would get down to the park whenever possible to play pick-up games as well. It kept me active, but what I really liked was the competitiveness. I was obsessed with the NBA and NBL. I just loved everything about the game. 

I knew something was seriously wrong as soon as it happened. I was playing a pickup game one night and I jumped for a rebound and tried to pivot at the same time. I heard a loud popping sound in my right knee and that was followed by the most excruciating pain I’ve ever felt. I was screaming in pain, it was that bad. I knew straight away it was serious. I was devastated. I immediately iced it and elevated it, but I knew I had to get it looked at by a doctor right away.

I went straight to the hospital. I had an MRI and the results showed I’d torn my ACL – the ligament that stabilises the knee joint. I was told a knee reconstruction was my best option to get better and back on to the court sooner.

Thankfully I had private health insurance with hospital cover. This meant I could pick my own surgeon and where I would have the operation. It was a much better option for me than joining a long waiting list in the public system. I waited about three weeks for the surgery.

The operation went well. One of my mates had the same injury in the past and could recommend a good surgeon. I spent one night in hospital in my own room. It was great to have my own space. After that night, I got to go home. It took me out of action for a little while, though. Thankfully, the post-operation appointments were all quite straightforward too. The procedure cost about $5000 in total, and I paid about $2000 of that in out of pocket expenses.

I felt really depressed around the time of the operation and just after. I’d gone from being fit and active to not really being able to walk, and I beat myself up mentally about how I could have landed the jump better and avoided all of this. I had definitely been taking my health for granted. I just assumed I’d always be healthy, and it made me very aware of my body’s limits as I was getting older.

My recovery routine was really intensive. There were a lot of visits to the physio, and plenty of Pilates classes and strengthening exercises. The incremental process felt tedious at times, but I had the goal of playing basketball again in my head, which made me committed to stick with the recovery process.

It took about a year to fully recover. It was a long and hard road. It was obviously hard physically, but it took most of its toll on my mental state. It was a real struggle not being able to play the sport I loved, an activity that gave me so much enjoyment. I even had to stop watching professional basketball, it affected me that much. Plus, I wasn’t confident moving in general, constantly fearing I’d hurt my knee again.

I don’t take my health for granted anymore. I’m back playing basketball now but I don’t go as hard as I used to. That feeling of doubt is still there and it’s definitely made me a lot more careful with my knee in my day-to-day life. I’m a total Pilates convert now though, which is a good thing to come from it all.


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