I tore my ACL bouldering indoors at a climbing gym

Quick summary

  • I heard a pop when I twisted my knee climbing and completely tore my right ACL
  • I got an MRI done (I shopped around and managed to get it bulk billed – no expense for me thanks to the Australian Government)
  • I wanted to be able to climb and ski again so getting my ACL surgically reconstructed would help
  • Surgery didn’t need to be done immediately, actually I needed to heal my knee up as much as possible to help with post-surgery rehab
  • I’d be off climbing and skiing for 9 months 😥

What happened?

I’ve been climbing for over half a decade both indoors and outdoors, top rope and bouldering. I love it, it’s the main way I keep fit. I’ve tried regular gyms in the past but the puzzle of working out a problem while getting fit just keeps me coming back to bouldering.

That is until I tore my right knee’s bouldering indoors. 😱

 Me at Boulderfest 2017, QLD Australia. Look at those sexy knees in action before the injury.

Me at Boulderfest 2017, QLD Australia. Look at those sexy knees in action before the injury.

It happened suddenly. I was attempting the dynamic move below in the image which involved starting in a crouched position and then jumping to reach those two orange holds close together.

 The Orange Dyno that did it. Photo from  Urban Climb Newstead Facebook Page .

The Orange Dyno that did it. Photo from Urban Climb Newstead Facebook Page.

But see that volume where the climber’s right foot currently is? Yeah, my foot hit that in a weird way and my knee gave way.

I heard a pop. 

And I fell to the ground in pain. I held my knee and couldn’t really talk. The gym staff got ice onto it pretty quickly (thanks other Zac!) and I managed to get home with the help of my partner and a friend.

The next day I saw the doctor and then had an MRI. The results came back and I found out I had a complete tear of my right ACL.

I did a lot of googling that day as I had no idea about the ACL and what tearing it meant.

The ACL is the ligament which helps knee stability. You can walk without one pretty easily in a straight line, but if you try and twist or turn suddenly then you’ll probably end up on the floor.

What I really wanted to know was could I ever go climbing and skiing again?

The answer was yes, but I’d need surgery.

If I had surgery and it was successful then I could ski and climb again after 9 months of rehab but I’d also have to be careful not to tear it again.

I got recommendations from friends and family for a number of surgeons and ended up picking one that was recommended by a friend and was also covered by my private health care (otherwise it would have cost $2500).

So I saw a surgeon and booked the ACL reconstruction in for 6 weeks later, as my knee needed to heal up as much as possible.

I ended up getting booked in for a single hamstring tendon graft. Where they take some of your hamstring and use that as an ACL replacement. This type of graft had a good success rate.

In the meantime I went to a physio. It was incredibly helpful and definitely worth it. They showed me the best way to walk, gave me exercises to strengthen particular leg muscles and iced my leg down with an incredibly machine. If you’re in Brisbane, check them out – RMPhysio.