Friday, December 7, 2007

In the beginning...

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.

I took a clumsy fall and tore the ACL - Anterior Cruciate Ligament - of my right knee during the last point of the last round of sparring class. Yeah.

Kinda dumb, eh?

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.

Watch this space for occasional video.


BobSpar said...

Hack Shaft!

I'm sorry to hear you tore your ACL--believe me, I empathize!--but very glad to hear you're going to soldier on to victory. Thanks for the kind words about my blog--I'm going to be keeping track of yours.

It's great that you're doing pre-op physical therapy, I think it will make a difference in your recovery speed. It's going to be really important to stick with physical therapy after your surgery, despite the pain.

I know some people try to struggle through ACL injury without surgery, and recovery will be a painful ordeal. But my knee is stable now, eight months post surgery. It will be wonderful for you when you can kick again with confidence, put your full weight on your leg without fear, and jump down a couple of steps without worrying that your knee will buckle painfully under you.

Hang in there.


Littlefair said...

Having just read your post and looked at where the ACL is I'm amazed you could actually function with it snapped!

Could you let us know how it affected you directly after the injury and before treatment started? What were your symptoms for example (I'm guessing excruciating pain!) but it seems you could walk and drive with it ok?

I'm simply curious as to how this knee injury might directly affect you, immediately post-trauma.


Hack Shaft said...


The ACL serves to stabilize the knee, essentially keeping the tibia (shin) from falling forward out of the joint.

Massive swelling occurred immediately and I could barely walk, although the leg could bear weight if I was careful. I could not bend my knee beyond perhaps 45 degrees.

I drive a manual transmission; while it was painful, I could accelerate and brake OK. If it were my left, I'd be unable to drive from the effort to clutch.