If you're a fan of Human Weapon on the History channel, they just aired an episode exploring the origins of Tae Kwon Do. At the end of the episode hosts Bill Duff and Jason Chambers are matched up with one of South Korea's best TKD instructors.
Bill gets knocked out during his second round, even being the large man he is with full protective gear on.
Jason tears his right knee's ACL with about 20 seconds left in his round. He attempts to execute a tornado kick with a poor landing, and the resulting torsion snaps his knee. He also lets loose an impressive stream of expletives that were beeped out.
He attempts to finish the round, but the pain and expletives just increase dramatically. I wanted to reach through the screen and smack him.
I also had a conversation with a co-worker yesterday, and discovered she too is having reconstruction in about 3 weeks. She believes her "event" was likely about 10 years ago. Ten times she has endured episodes of excruciating pain as her knee joint locked up in flexion, apparently dislocating and requiring an ER visit to anesthetize the joint and pop it back into place. She's finally decided to get it diagnosed, and to have reconstruction.
I'm so glad this has been no more than a 4-week period from injury to surgery.
I can't imagine living longer than this with a sloppy, floppy knee joint, constantly concerned for whether my knee will pull a "flamingo" and bend backwards.
Allow me to drift a bit off the usual topics of Martial Arts and ACL reconstruction.
The nickname Hack Shaft has a cute story behind it.
Several years ago, my band was having a bit of an identity crisis; we'd left the old name behind, along with the old drummer (who absolutely insisted that HE owned the name, though we were 4-to-1 in majority against him) and needed something new to call ourselves.
So I did what any entrepreneurial punk would and hit up the Internet, looking for the perfect name. I came across a variety of random band name generators and took one for a spin.
The funniest one that popped up was Explosive Nutrition. GNC stores pop into my head every time I remember THAT one!
Hack Shaft just showed up in one list, and kinda stuck in my head. I mentioned it to my co-guitarist at the time, and his first reaction was "Ow!!!"
Anyhow, it's unique enough that I began to use it regularly for home recording and video production. Hack Shaft. I like it.
Oh, and since being called "Hack" in comments sounds a little harsh...my name is Paul.
As if things aren't challenging enough doing extensive shopping solo with a bum knee, I got news my father-in-law tore his hamstring earlier this week. He's being taken care of by the same orthopaedic clinic as I am, so that gives me a good feeling having experienced some top-quality care myself from that place. We're gonna be quite a pair of lame guys come Christmas!
Got a letter off to insurance from Dr. K regarding the allograft option, plan to pound on them hard to put it through during the short work week coming up. I suppose I could have kept quiet, but with this kind of expense I wanted to avoid surprise charges after the procedure.
I'm hopeful to be driving within 2 weeks of surgery, but that all comes down to PT and the doc's OK. If I can't, then I may look into working remotely from home or coming up with some kind of taxi arrangement. Fortunately it's a mighty slow time of year, so I don't expect things would back up much if I extended my winter vacation a bit longer.
My wife, God bless her soul, is really having fun playing in the snow with the new snowblower. Still, the sidewalks have a lot of ice on 'em from under the snow, so it's gonna be tricky navigating for a while.
On the surgical front, this is the last 24 hours pre-op I'm allowed to have any kind of blood thinner, such as Tylenol, ibuprofen, or aspirin. Just gotta keep calm the next week and a half, and use ice packs for any headaches!
If I don't post during the upcoming holiday, may all of you reading this enjoy a most peaceful and happy Christmas, a glorious celebration of the lights of Chanukah, an introspective and solemn Ramadan, or a boisterous, festive Kwanzaa.
Rehearsal Saturday went well with the band, and so did the show late last night at a local club. The knee held up well.
Today I tried to go without my usual neoprene support velcroed around the knee, I didn't like it. I could really tell just how much slop there was in the joint just sitting at my office desk! Even with the irritation of occasional Velcro hooks rubbing on the back of my thigh, going with is tons better than doing without.
Black Belt Mama is recovering from her ACL reconstruction currently. Stop by and give her your positive thoughts and good wishes.
I haven't felt any normal 'pop' in my right knee since the adventure began last week. Generally there's a bit of resistance and discomfort while bending the knee, but no pop.
One jumped out of the joint this morning as I was going through some PT exercises.
Today I chatted up my surgeon. After discussion options, I'm planning to go with an allograft, unless my medical insurance won't cover the additional costs. The insurance company wants to review the case, so I'm glad I made the inquiry.
My surgeon, Dr. K, also mentioned that besides the torn ACL there was a tear in the meniscus that he'll clean up as part of the procedure.
Tomorrow is a very busy day. Morning begins with belt promotion testing at my Karate school, and I'll be taping the show to put on DVD. My Daughter is going for her green belt, which means she can start sparring classes and weapons training. She's very excited about that!
Afternoon is band rehearsal for our show on Monday, then it's the company holiday party in the evening. Whew!
My ACL reconstruction is January 2nd. Let the countdown begin...
For tomorrow's consult, I'll be sure to keep an open ear and mind about options.
The three surgeons recommended to me are all part of an orthopaedic facility, with very experienced specialists in sports medicine--both surgical and non-surgical. I believe experience won't be an issue.
That pretty much leaves it up to the surgeon's recommendations, and his particular history and experience with each option. I will dig hard to find out if he's specifically worked with martial artists, and I promise to log in tomorrow afternoon and report back!
I'm mostly Ok with an allograft, it's the Wife who has concerns. I trust medical science to do what's in the best interest of my health, as long as procedure is strictly followed!
Reports of disease transmission by allograft of a ligament are statistically insignificant. I would prefer avoiding the strip mining of my patella if I can, and there's the insurance side of things as well. If purchasing material for an allograft isn't a covered option, that may limit me right there.
It's just a bit creepy thinking of trading in human remains, but I myself make sure to check the Organ Donor box on my driver's license application each and every time. If I'm willing to be a donor, I should be willing to honor someone else's decision to do the same if it's truly in my best interests.
Saw my PT over lunch today, she confirmed that my ROM is pretty damned good right now (130 degrees flexion, I think minus 2 extension? Not certain about the latter..) Monday I could tell the swelling was on the downside, and this confirms it. If not for the weird characteristic instability of the ACL-absent knee, I could almost imagine myself having only a sprain. Almost.
Speaking with my OD's assistant, I got recommendations on surgeons. Looked at their bios and went with my second choice, since the first choice isn't even doing consultations until mid-January; I'm NOT waiting that long to book a date for surgery!
I'm hoping for surgery early in January. I'd do it sooner, but have to hold off until 2008 for financial reasons.
I consult with the surgeon this Friday around lunchtime and with a bit of luck we'll come to an agreement about surgical options and scheduling.
In considering an Allograph (ligament harvested from a donor) I do have concerns due to the recent story of 4 organ donor recipients in the Chicago area contracting HIV and Hepatitis C. That, and in many studies it's been shown that an autograph using part of the patella ligament from the patient's own body tend to result in stronger knees, and shorter time spent on crutches compared to allographs.
So...when it comes down to it, I'll sacrifice a little extra discomfort from the harvest to reap the benefits sown by providing my own hardware for the fix.
On another front, my daughter has decided that she'll take on sparring. She really didn't want to do it right away, but I think she's more comfortable since she'd be starting with a fairly good sized group of her classmates at the karate school. Good for her.
Now if I can just scrape up $400 for the gear amidst Christmas shopping...
Tonight I stopped by my Karate school before the usual Monday Night Fights (sparring class).
I wanted to honor my sense of ritual and say goodbye to the sparring instructor, since he only teaches Monday evenings. Taking my daughter to her classes wouldn't normally have me crossing paths with him, and it'll likely be late summertime or early autumn before I see him again.
The neat thing is he took some tickets to come see my band play next Monday, conveniently late enough not to conflict with sparring class! There should be quite a crowd from the karate school showing up. That is the coolest.
I decided to adjust my walking stick one more notch taller, and that has helped the stitch I've been feeling in my left hip. I was probably leaning too far over using the stick, and I'll confirm things with my PT on Wednesday. Oh, the interesting coincidence is my PT saw the same Orthopaedic Doc for a shoulder problem that I'm seeing for my ACL!
Final thought for the night: I'm giving in to gluttony this week. I'm indulging in a little bit of self-pity. I'm gonna enjoy a bit of excess eating M&M cookies with peanut butter chips, if only for a little while.
It's always interesting to see who comes out of the woodwork when you experience some life-changing event. This morning at church I spoke with a few long-time friends and was related their personal ACL tear stories!
Judy, recently on the losing side of the equation between scooter and automobile, currently suffers from a torn ACL among other ailments as a result of her accident. Kerry tore her ACL 16 years ago skiing. Anne's son tore his playing soccer within the past few years, and I'm promised an introduction at Christmastime to talk with him about his experience.
This past week I've felt out of place in my own house, especially this weekend as the Wife and Mother-In-Law paint up the entryway and stairs.
I came to the realization that I'm sitting around doing nothing, because that's the time I'd usually spend at Karate class! DUH! I've been so entrenched in the daily and weekly rhythm of classes 4 to 5 times a week that it's really disruptive putting it on hold.
A man of ritual, I plan to give my fairly new sparring equipment (only twice used) a good cleaning and, along with my uniform and belt, pack it carefully away. Then I'll wrap it as a present to myself, to open on that special day when I get a green light from my PT and doc to return to Karate!
Nothing new today except a fresh sheet of PT to do, and a few items to pickup from the local pharmacy - Ace bandages, a proper height walking stick, and a larger ice pack than I currently own for cryotherapy to knock down swelling.
So far things have been OK on the pain front, except for the loss of range of motion due to swelling. The way I would describe the sensation of bending my knee right now is like taking a long inflated balloon and trying to bend it. The further you bend it, the more resistance you meet!
My goal for the weekend is to prepare for the next PT visit on Wednesday. My PT gave me no specific sets and reps to do, trusting that my ambition will suffice to keep me going. Meanwhile, check out Black Belt Mama - another martial artist in pre-op stages of her own ACL reconstruction surgery.
EDIT: Forgot to add the Laundry List!
Concerns: 1. Getting fat. Might lose weight just from surgery, but gotta watch out for the sedentary lifestyle! I need to develop at least a core and upper body routine as soon as possible until I can resume aerobic activity. 2. Losing flexibility. It's so important in the legs. I worry about whether I can find a way to keep at least my good leg relatively flexible!
Goals: 1. Returning to core classes. 2. Getting my next belt. 3. Competing (most likely in the Forms division) at the Diamond Nationals in October. 4. Completing a sparring class without injury. In my first sparring class I rolled my left foot, re-spraining it. My second class landed me here in ACL Hell, as some have so accurately put it!
My story, or at least the part I will journal here, began 4 days ago on December 3rd, 2007.
Some will read this and think I'm a complete dork for overdoing things at my age. I could wrap it in glamor and call it a Karate injury, maybe blame it on a malevolent deity who decided to pick on me, but the truth is much plainer than all that.
Typical of this sort of injury, there was a lovely popping sound as my knee decided to bend at an angle it was never intended to. My sparring partner and I had tangled our legs after an exchange of blows and I stumbled clumsily backwards--and just sideways enough to rip the strongest ligament in my body into two pieces. I still shiver at the thought.
I suspected the damage was bad, and visited a local orthopaedic specialty clinic during my lunch hour the following day during their walk-in "Acute Injury" hours. Think of it as Urgent Care for the bones.
During the visit X-rays were taken which--typically--didn't show the extent of damage, other than perhaps there were no broken bones. The Orthopaedist performed a number of manipulation tests that pointed directly at ACL damage, the extent of which would require an MRI. I scheduled it for that same night after work.
Preparing for the MRI wasn't tough, I just had to remove a 6-pack of semi-permanent earrings to avoid getting my ears torn off by the incredibly powerful magnets involved. What was tough was battling winter storm traffic for an hour, covering perhaps 5 miles of roads between the office and clinic!
The following morning I got the call from Dr. W, the orthopaedic doc (and sports injury specialist as well). He confirmed I have a completely torn ACL.
Having already researched my options, I immediately agreed with the need for reconstructive surgery (ACL's do NOT heal by themselves) and scheduled Physical Therapy. The goal of pre-op PT is to eliminate the swelling from injury, much like a sprain, and restore full range of motion to the joint.
Last night at my daughter's class I broke the news to two of my Karate instructors. Beyond the initial disbelief, there were of course a flood of questions as to "How Long..." and "What's Next." I'm touched by the fact that my main instructor almost bowed out of teaching the following class, he was so impacted by news of my injury.
Thankfully this ill-timed event had a bright side - I have decent health insurance, and was in the midst of my company's enrollment period for pre-tax spending accounts for Medical and Childcare needs.
So that's it for the moment, had my first PT this morning, started the blog this afternoon. I'd like to mention BobSpar, a Middle-Aged Martial Artist who is himself recovering from ACL reconstruction, and inspiration to start recording my journey.
Reading advice from BobSpar, I plan to keep very involved with my school and the sport. As much as recovery allows, I will continue supporting my daughter in her journey to black belt and beyond, videotaping belt promotions and tournaments for the school's students and instructors.
I'm in my mid 40's entering middle age. I began studying National Karate in August of 2007, based on the Joon Rhee system of Tae Kwon Do. I was laid low by torn ACL's in December of 2007, November of 2008, and a re-tear in December of 2009. This is a journal of my journey from defeat in injury to victory over reconstruction, and on to earning my 1st Degree Black Belt.