ACL Blog

Part I

Exploring Alternatives to Surgery

In this blog post, I want to share my personal experience of going through a knee injury, specifically tearing my ACL and cartilage damage, as a professional dancer and teacher. I will take you through the events leading up to my injury, the diagnosis, the initial plan for surgery, unexpected challenges along the way, and my decision to explore alternative methods of recovery. This journey has taught me valuable lessons about resilience, self-care, and listening to my body. By sharing my story, I hope to offer a different perspective on dealing with ACL injuries as a dancer.
How it happened
It happened during a guest performance of my piece “Patterns of perception” at a school. The team and I were in a rush to set up the performance, because usually in these settings one doesn’t get enough time, so I didn’t manage to warm up properly and prepare my body. During the show I made a wrong step: I took too much energy for a hop, and couldn’t deal with it during the landing, which lead to misalignment and a bad landing. I immediately felt that something was wrong with my knee. While I didn't hear a popping sound as often described, my knee felt displaced, leading me to believe it was a kneecap issue or a similar minor injury.
Diagnosis and Initial Plan for Surgery
After visiting the hospital and undergoing an MRI, the doctors revealed that I had a torn ACL and cartilage damage (2 doctors said that it was a rupture, and one said that it was not fully torn). They warned that without surgery, I wouldn't be able to dance again due to the instability and impact-related cartilage damage.
Based on the severity of the injury and the recommendations of multiple doctors, I initially decided to proceed with ACL replacement surgery. The prognosis seemed grim, with doctors suggesting I would have difficulty walking stairs and always experience knee pain.
The Physical and Mental Challenges:
The first weeks following the injury were the most challenging. My knee was swollen, rendering me unable to put any weight on it. As an active person, this sudden loss of mobility took a toll on my mental health. I relied heavily on the support of others for even the simplest tasks, leading to moments of depression and frustration.
Unexpected Delays:
While preparing for the scheduled surgery, various unforeseen circumstances caused repeated delays. Firstly, my primary doctor went on vacation, forcing me to wait longer. Then, Germany experienced a water shortage due to drought, resulting in a delay as the surgical materials were affected. Frustrated by these setbacks, I sought out another doctor for a second opinion.
The Alternative Approach:
The new doctor proposed a different plan. Instead of using a ligament from my leg for the ACL replacement, he suggested a donor ligament. His reasoning was based on the narrow structure of my knee and concerns about weakening another area of my leg. He also mentioned a "healing method" involving the stimulation of stem cells through controlled bone destruction.
Surgery Day:
On the day of the surgery, I arrived at the hospital with mixed emotions of excitement and fear. However, just before the operation, it was discovered that my knee had become less stable due to a recent battle with COVID-19. This unexpected development led the doctor to change the plan and opt for using my own ligament instead of a donor ligament.
Postponing Surgery:
Due to the anesthesia restrictions following my COVID-19 recovery, the operation had to be canceled. Disappointed but resilient, I embraced the opportunity to explore alternative methods of recovery and allow myself more time to heal naturally.
Rehabilitation and Recovery:
I focused on strengthening the muscles around my knee and stabilizing it without surgery. I incorporated static exercises that held tension and avoided excessive movement. I also sought guidance from fellow dancers who had experienced knee injuries and integrated yoga and the use of a TENS machine to activate and strengthen my thigh muscles.
The Future and Decision-Making:
At this stage, I am committed to seeing how far I can recover without surgery. I will assess my mobility and decide whether I am content with the progress I've made or if I still need to consider surgical intervention. Regardless of the outcome, this journey has taught me the importance of trusting my instincts, seeking multiple opinions, and being open to alternative paths of healing.
My journey of knee injury and the decision to avoid surgery has been filled with ups and downs, unexpected challenges, and moments of self-discovery. While the ultimate outcome is yet to be determined, I am grateful for the opportunity to explore alternative methods of recovery and have gained a deeper understanding of my body and its capacity for healing. I hope my story serves as a reminder that sometimes the path to recovery may not follow the conventional route, and it's essential to listen to our bodies and make informed decisions about our health and well-being.

Here you can watch my story in a video format