Torn ACL’s, Cadavers & Decisions

Move Forward

“It is in your moments of decision that your destiny is shaped.” – Tony Robbins 

The way forward begins when we decide it does.

I was training in jiu jitsu.  My knee popped.

It was the sound that changed my summer.

I tried hard to convince myself my knee was “getting better”.  After a few futile attempts at jogging, I knew it was time to see a specialist.

Fast forward: 2 weeks of limping, X-Rays, and an MRI later.

I was standing next to an orthopedic surgeon.  He read the MRI report.

Full ACL tear.


The surgeon gave me 2 options:

1) Physical Therapy:

  • Strengthen my injured knee with physical therapy.
  • See if my knee could learn to live without an ACL.
  • Go about my day to day life, minus any full speed activities.
  • A knee brace and a “take it easy” attitude would be needed for all athletics for the next 40-50 years.

I ruled this option out in about 3 seconds.

2) Surgery – Allograft ACL Reconstruction:

  • Have the surgeon create a new ACL by drilling a cadaver tendon into my knee.
  • Follow his rehab regime for about 6 months.
  • If the 1 hour procedure was successful, I would be “…home by dinner, driving in 2 weeks and jogging in 90 days.”  

Surgery was the only option that offered a chance to get back to FULL SPEED.

He had my attention.

I had questions:

Me: What’s your success rate for this type of surgery?

MD:  Over 95%.

Me: How many ACL surgeries have you done?

MD: About 800.

Me:  How bad is the post-op pain?

MD: 3 or 4 out of 10.  Take the meds.

Me:  What’s the risk of NOT getting the surgery?

MD:  Chances are you will be back here sometime in your 50’s with no ACL, a damaged meniscus, and arthritis in your knee.  That will be an entirely different conversation.

Not a road I want to walk (or limp) down.

The surgeon came highly recommended.

His confidence was contagious.

The long term advantages of the surgery were apparent.

But a DECISION to get knee surgery can’t be made in a vacuum.      

  • We have 3 young kids in non-stop activities.      
  • My wife has a busy career.  
  • We had family trips planned over the summer.    

I asked 1 more question:

Me:  Would it affect my outcome if I waited 2 months to get the surgery?

MD:  No.  Just stay off the jiu jitsu mat.


I scheduled the surgery.

Jeffrey Gitomer said, “In the long run, it is always cheaper & easier to fix the problem, than not fix the problem.”

This is true in business and life.

The best way to come back is to move forward.

Not knowing what path to take is AVERAGE.  

Making the decision to move forward is REMARKABLE.

– Joe Ciccarone

About Joe Ciccarone

Host of the “Built Not Born” podcast, Blogger ( & BJJ Black Belt. "Escape Average, Be Remarkable."
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3 Responses to Torn ACL’s, Cadavers & Decisions

  1. Best of luck Joe. Hope you have a successful surgery.

  2. Bob DiLuzio says:

    You made the right decision. Best wishes through your surgery and recovery and full confidence you will never look back!

  3. Wow thank you for your words. I was just searching on the net for some positive stories around ACL ruptures. I’ve just found out the damage my body endured. So feeling.. well feeling big time! So many feelings. Fear, sadness, gratitude, uncertainty and in a weird way some certainty too. Anyway, I just want to say how finding your stories has contributed massive greatness to the flow of my feelings. I am so thankful for what you have shared it’s given me a bit of strength. Thank you again. Laurinda

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