Just over eight months into recovery from ACL reconstruction surgery, I did jumping front snap kicks.

You may be wondering how I ended up in this predicament in the first place. Take a look at this post (“POP! Goes My ACL”) for the detailed story of how I injured myself and what followed in the immediate aftermath.

The short version is I tore my ACL doing a jump kick, and not even a good one at that.

The act of jumping into the air and kicking is not so much the problem as is landing. Some people tear their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) or other ligaments in a fall or an accident causing the leg to twist unnaturally. Other people, like me, tear the ligament during the landing of a jump or while running–the impact rather than the movement itself. Sometimes the unlucky person just happens to land at a weird angle or other times, the ligament has endured enough wear and tear that one small movement can make it POP like a balloon.

You can imagine my trepidation when my therapist announced I would be doing jumps and…jump kicks…the cause of my injury.

I’d started doing jumps a bit prematurely in January. I ended up with terrible IT band pain because I hadn’t built up the gluteal muscles and other surrounding muscles to bear the brunt of lifting into the air and landing. My new therapist and I got back to basics and spent a good two solid months on strengthening my right leg.

Unfortunately my right leg was already much weaker than my left leg pre-injury, so I still have a lot of catching up to do and then some.

I started “jumping” again around late February/early March. Rather than standing, I used the shuttle (a leg press machine) with a band around my legs to remind me to keep my right leg from collapsing inward upon landing, which is the most common way the ACL tears. I did double leg jumps, switch jumps (jump from one leg to the other), and single leg jumps on my right leg. Doing the faux jumps on the machine helped me get over the fear of jumping (or rather, landing) and build up strength.

Eventually I found my way to doing the jumps standing, first with a band around my knees, and finally “normally,” as I used to jump pre-injury. I still need to be very conscious of how I land and am still dismayed at how weak my right leg is compared to my left, but overall, it’s a great accomplishment.

Most recently, my therapist demonstrated a short jump snap kick for my new exercise. I was a little stunned. I’d gotten used to jumping unaided, but a jump kick? This is crazy talk, lady.

There are a few ways to do a jump snap kick. The kind I’m doing in therapy, which happens to be my favorite kick, is done with switching –I launch off one foot, bring the other leg up for leverage, and kick with the same foot I jumped up from. I’m very good at doing this on the left with jump or flying snap kick, jump roundhouse, and 360…but guess which leg has been the landing leg for all those preferred left foot jump kicks and has borne the impact of all those left foot jump kicks?

It took a few minutes and a few silly attempts for me to remember how to do a jump snap kick. I even had to talk through it out loud a few times: “Okay, I want to kick with the left foot, so I push off my left foot, bring up my right knee, kick with the left, land on the right…”

Since the focus was still on landing, I had to dial back how high I jumped off the left leg so I wouldn’t do too hard of a landing on my right. Meanwhile, the “jumps” off my right leg were more like sad hops. It’s easy to get discouraged, so I enjoyed getting to do some actual taekwondo in the rehab clinic and reminded myself of how far I’d come.

The black belt mechanic is back in the shop.



Stay tuned for my upcoming book– “Kicking and Screaming: a Memoir of Madness and Martial Arts” published by She Writes Press. Coming to a bookseller near you April 20, 2021!

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