I was stepping sideways to my right to cut off the short but talented Mexican fellow when he sneakily changed direction. With all of my weight on my left foot but moving right, I turned my mass to the left. The high coefficient of friction between my gym shoes and the Astroturf overwhelmed my ligament that was coping with torque of my upper body mass twisting back to the left. I collapsed partially, tried to stand back up and immediately knew something was wrong and sat back down, calling for a sub (I think the Mexican dude scored like three goals during the 3 seconds it took for all of this to go down). I hobbled off the field with an uncertain feeling in my knee.
As the swelling waxed then waned over the coming days, the slight pain and discomfort abated. But then it plateaued. After some days of wishful thinking, I finally went to see an orthopedic specialist. As he poked and prodded inquiring “does this hurt?”, my hopefulness rose each time I answered “no, not really!”. He eventually surmised, “I think you buggered your anterior cruciate ligament.” I thought to myself, “well, I don’t know what that is, but at least he didn’t say ACL.” Then as I teased out what the acronym would be for this alien-sounding name, my wife simultaneously shouted, “you tore your ACL!”. Stupid doctors and their fancy names.
It turns out, if your knee feels “funny” but you don’t have much pain, it’s a sign that you damaged the parts that don’t have nerves and blood attached to them: ligaments!
Of course, I was expecting to hear about how they were going to use carbon-nanotube scaffolding to span my torn ACL and infuse it with growth factors and stem cells to grow it all back in a week. Instead, they’re closer to leeches and maggots: using a “donor ligament” (think: someone who will never need theirs again). Nasty! And, who hasn’t seen the movie Body Parts??? If I get the ligament of a violent criminal, who knows what could happen to my knee? Uncontrollable shaking???