Running with Torn ACL and Cartilage

by Ray H
(Mobile, Alabama)

I tore an ACL 37 years ago when I was 30 yo and never had it reconstructed. About 10 yrs ago I tore the cartilage in the other knee which I had arthroscopy on. The only exercise that doesn't seem to hurt now is cycling.

I've been biking for several years - longest ride so far is 52 miles, but not fast -took 4 hrs!

I would now like to think of returning to running.

I'm in pretty good shape for my age (67), 6 ft tall and 175 lbs and doing light weights several times a week at the Y.

Haven't yet started running but am anxious to see if I can. Any suggestions/advice?

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Ray,
Thanks for your question about running with a torn ACL and cartilage.

I guess everybody is different, but generally speaking, running with a torn ACL or torn cartilage is not a great idea. You see, the ACL is basically a connection between your thigh bone and the shin bone. The cartilage sits on top of the shin bone.

With a torn ACL the problem you can have is that the thigh bone starts rubbing on the cartilage and that can lead to tears.

I have a cartilage tear myself at the moment. I am recovering from it, but it kept me on the sidelines for about six months.

I am not sure what the 30 year time span has done to the knee and what it looks like on the inside.

I really can't tell you to just go out and start running so you'll have to make the risk assessment yourself. If you want to give running a try, then I would suggest the following:

1) Stop it when you feel the slightest pain in the knee.

2) Build it up very slowly. Even though you sound fit I would start with walking and incorporating short one-minute runs in between.

3) Train the muscles around your knee to give the knee as much support as you can. Cycling is already a great activity to build strength in the thighs. With the weights, consider doing some weighted squats and weighted calf raises for extra strength in the legs.

4) Run slowly as well. The faster you run, the more you 'pound the pavement' and the more stress there is on your knees. Easy running, the pace at which you'd be able to have a conversation with a running buddy is the right pace for you.

I sincerely hope you will be able to pick up running.
Kind regards,

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