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MedWatch: ACL Tear

"The feeling I get — it’s like nothing else. All life’s real problems or things that would consume your daily life disappear for a minute."

Skiing and snowboarding are passions for Darryn Shulte. But after landing a jump wrong in Oregon, his escape took him somewhere he didn’t want to be — the hospital.

"You can kind of feel it rip, which was kind of a crazy feeling," said Darryn. "It’s kind of hard to explain — it’s right in the middle of your knee all the way through, so I definitely knew something was wrong."

Darryn had torn his anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL. Soon, he was on his way back home to Traverse City to see Doctor Thomas O’Hagan.

"It’s about 10 mm wide, so about the width of a tube of chapstick, and it’s about an inch and a half long," explained Dr. O’Hagan. "It’s the main stabilizer to the knee and prevents the knee from shifting and pivoting."

Some people choose to do nothing after an injury like this, but Darryn was not going to leave his extreme loves behind. So he opted to have the ligament rebuilt using another one of his tendons.

"Which is very similar to the way it’s done in professional athletes, and we use that method because Darryn is a very high demand athlete. He skis and does a lot of extreme sports that will really test his new ACL, and he’s done well so far and is back to skiing."

But this didn’t just happen overnight. He put in a lot of work to get to this point.

"I’ve done a lot," Darryn said. "I’ve gone to the gym. I have my road bike on a trainer at my house to pedal it out, pedal it around before I come skiing everyday and after skiing — just to lube up the joint, break down the swelling. But really with an ACL reconstruction, just like O’Hagan will say, it takes time no matter what you’re doing."

Dr. O’Hagan says, "those are nice, when you have athletes that are really committed and dedicated to getting back, and who work hard through rehab to do that because their results are often better because they put in the time afterward to get back."

And because of the decisions and the work, chances are Darryn will be skiing on his knee for a long long time.

"I talk to athletes about their short term goal and their long term goals and certainly as a physical it’s important to take both into consideration with regard to safety and how his knee will function. His short term goals are that we get him back to skiing at 100 percent, and his long term goals for Darryn is that we protect his knee in the long run, and the expectation that this new ACL will be the ligament that will be in his knee forever and it will be come his own tissue."