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Patient Success Story: Returning to competitive water skiing after ACL surgery

John Zimmerman, a competitive water skier, experienced a tear of his right knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) while water skiing late last summer. He chose Dr. Matthew Busbee of The Orthopaedic Group for his treatment. Dr. Busbee discussed the surgical and nonsurgical options associated with his injury. “I knew I couldn’t continue to competitively ski and do all of the other activities I enjoy with my ACL in that condition and having to rely too much on a brace. I appreciated having the chance to avoid surgery, but I knew it was never an option that I would not go back to the same level of water skiing activity. I love it,” said John Zimmerman.

Competitive Water Skiing after acl surgeryAs part of his treatment plan, Dr. Busbee implemented a pre-surgery rehab regimen focusing on range of motion and strengthening exercises before undergoing surgery on October 15, 2015. Mr. Zimmerman completed physical therapy with Brian Risser at Saraland Physical Therapy. There are multiple graft options when reconstructing an ACL. For Mr. Zimmerman, Dr. Busbee utilized his hamstrings as the graft. The hamstrings are located behind the knee and ultimately would replace his torn ligament. When arranged into four strips, the hamstring graft is actually stronger than his original ACL and is less likely to cause knee pain after surgery.

“Dr. Busbee chose the procedure he felt was best for me. I really felt like I had the best team working with me during my pre-hab, surgery and then post-op rehab. Dr. Busbee, his assistant Jimmy Fisher and my physical therapist Brian were working together to build a great exercise program for me to do at home and at the gym,” he said, “they got me back to doing the things I love to do!”

The surgery and rehab were so successful, here is a video of Mr. Zimmerman slalom skiing just six months plus one week after his ACL surgery! He competed in his first tournament seven months after his surgery. Per Dr. Busbee’s recommendation, John is wearing a knee brace while practicing and competing for the first few months. At his second post-op tournament a few weeks ago, he actually came within one buoy of his all-time highest score. “After I skied my best round at this recent American Water Ski Association tournament near Tallahassee, the judge riding in the boat jokingly said ‘it might be time to get your other knee done’,” said John. Although he is very happy with the outcome of his surgery and rehab, John hopes to take a pass on that.

To learn more about competitive water skiing, visit

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