I am now a first level brown belt in Shuri- Ryu Karate. I study under Sensei James McLain. I tore my ACL as a green belt in 2009. We were doing simple sweeps to takedowns. We were getting tired and sloppy. We were wearing shoes on carpet. My partner fell awkwardly, his foot hitting the back of my right knee as he landed. I lost my balance and went down in pain. I had no other damage to my knee. I opted to use a graft from my hamstring. My rehab was pretty straight forward. I was back to full ability to work out in a few months. In retrospect i did not take the rehab very seriously. I was too accustomed to freakish physical attributes. The in January of 2011, I ran outside to throw something in the trash. I jumped over a flower bed. As I landed my knee gave and twisted inwardly. It hurt very badly and took 30 minutes to stop hurting also swelled. After that, every few weeks it felt like my ACL would get caught on something or get twisted. I found if I straightened my leg and locked out the joint it would click or pop back into place. It began to happen more and more often, as much as once a week. Until June when we went to tournament.
During warm-ups at a seminar prior to the tournament, I threw a right roundhouse kick and I felt my knew pop out again. Try as I did, I could not get it to pop back into place. I could not straighten my knee. I could not walk without a limp. Competition was obviously out of the question and until I went to see my orthopedist, my future as a Karate- Ka was in question. My biggest fear was that a second knee surgery was in my near future. I watched the rest of the tournament, went to see the my orthopedists when I got home, went through x-rays and an MRI to get the results: ruptured ACL graft, large bucket-handle tear of the medial meniscus. Surgery was definitely in my future. It is never good to have your sports medicine orthopedist say “I have never seen a rupture like this, I have no idea how you did this.”
- the piece of metal in the middle of the joint should be on the outside edge of the femur (bone on top). You can see the tunnel that makes a diagonal from the top left to the bottom right next to the ball. my new ACL goes through the old tunnel.
I was given a few options. Being a young man of 31 and since I wished to continue to train, I chose to have my ACL repaired a second time; to use my opposite knee’s hamstring as a graft; to repair the meniscus tear if possible rather than remove the torn segment. I did not train from the time of injury to surgery because my entire body was constantly sore from the profound limp I had because my knee would not extend. My job as an ER nurse means I am on my feet a lot. Training would have been foolish and reckless.
I’ve found that in times of injury, the body must be given time to heal and rest, even if the mind would rather not.
When I had a simple ACL tear without a meniscus injury and the pain was mild. I was walking in 24 hours. I only needed crutches for a day. I was on a stationary bike within the week. I was running in a month or two and back to full contact in a few months. This time however, the pain was considerable. I did not put weight on my right leg for three weeks. I had an extension brace for 5 weeks (no bending the leg). As of now roughly five months our of surgery I am back to training.
The first three weeks my rehab exercise consisted of quad sets, straight leg raises and leg flexors. I spent a lot of time on a folded out futon. I iced my knee several times a day and took a few trips outside for sunshine. It was mid to late summer so I could not tend my garden nor do any of my house chores other than wash the dishes and fold laundry. My two-year old knew which parts of my leg had boo-boos and she asked me if i was OK when I winced with pain. Sometimes the worse part was that I also had a surgically torn hamstring on my good leg and sometimes stepping awkwardly caused a hot fire lightning strikes of pain down the back of my leg. My first surgery, I only took the anti-inflammatory (toradol). This surgery, I used my Roxicet like clock-work and ultimately needed a refill for Lortab. I am not a medicine taker. However, the pain took me by surprise.
The only training to be done was ki-breating and self kiatsu. I trained to sit and take 20-30 seconds inspirations and 20-30 second expirations. I would work up to doing this for ten minutes then 15 and topped out at 20 minutes. I would concentrate on healing my knee. My arms and shoulders got a great work out using crutches. The last week of the crutches I went to the beach with my family.
If you’ve never had the opportunity I suggest trying to walk in the deep sand with crutches, or get into the ocean when you cannot put weight on your right leg. It was comical and sometimes painful but usually therapeutic. Midway through that week at the beach, I got to lose the crutches and wear a brace whenever weight-bearing. It kept my leg straight and although I learned acceptance the brace and I did not get along at first.
After the crutches went away, I did straight leg cable pulls, resistance bands, heel raises and still did the first month straight leg raises. once the brace was gone and I was “out of jail” as my PT said, the real rehab began. For a few months now I work out my rehab routine 2-3 times a week:
5 min stationary bike, medium difficulty (warm-up)…Single seated leg press…..single leg calf flexors…..Hip Adduction/Abduction…..Declined single leg press….Smith Squats….Single leg hip bends….Bridges…..
I usually did 2-3 sets, sometimes easy weight, sometimes heavier weights. This past month or two, I’ve added leg extensions, bosu ball dynamic squats, single leg ball bridges, running 0.5 -1 mile treadmill. And for three weeks now, we’ve added agility testing. My rehab work out takes a few hours now.
As far as Karate training goes, I went back into the dojo while still in the brace. I worked punching on the bag, Sanchin Kata, standard blocks and punches, high stances. Once the brace was gone, more punching bag, makiwara training. Last week I got into uniform and returned to class, again…no kicking, no sweeping, no live/full contact ie. no form sparring. I believe I will be back to full speed/ full contact.
I have deep and strong gratitude to Vanderbilt Sports Medicine, Dr. Warren Dunn, Dr. Warne Fitch and especially Hung Do physical therapist. World Class!
I am beginning to understand that there will be a few things I will not be able to do again. I rehab technique by technique and step by step. I have learned a great deal from all this.
*Don’t worry about the future, be present with your body. This is the doorway awareness and ability.
*Even if you don’t want to work out or train, when its boring or painful or sad, it is more important at those times.
*Never take for granted what your body is able to do. It is amazing.
*Breathe deep and often.
*Take your time.
thank you for reading