Enjoy this month’s article from Martial Journal! After taking a year and a half off to recover from two knee surgeries, I’m back in taekwondo and feeling great. Returning to your sport and avoiding re-injury takes some thought and planning that is well worth the time and effort. Click the link to read my tips on returning to your sport, and of course, consult with your healthcare providers.
I’m a second degree black belt. I could have tested for third degree black belt at the end of this year.
I had to relearn how to walk after my July knee surgery. When you can’t walk very well or even stand up in the shower, all that fighting, jumping, and sprinting nonsense goes out the window for a while. It’s hard to feel like the athlete you were before your injury. It’s depressing to feel out of shape. It’s frustrating to go through so much pain as you heal and gain strength.
Recovering from a major injury when you used to do a high-level sport can feel overwhelming and a bit daunting.
I come from a family of creators who enjoy challenging hobbies. My dad is a painter who is especially skilled in oils and portraiture, and he was a competitive swimmer in high school and college. My mom likes doing difficult and complex knitting patterns. My brother is a professional musician.
I hit stuff.
Kidding aside, any martial artist knows they have to put in hours and years to hone their craft. It’s not a matter of mindlessly parroting or mimicking motions their Sensei or Sabumnim does. You have to develop both the mental and physical intelligence required to perform and improve upon your martial art. You have to understand why you do certain things.
“Playing to my strengths,” as we say in the corporate world, may very well have cost me my ACL. Let me explain…
I work in healthcare leadership development, so we arbiters of euphemisms rarely use the word “weakness.” We dance around “opportunities for development” or “areas of growth.” I involuntarily shivered when a client said she wanted her team to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) so they could “learn about their strengths and weaknesses.” My goodness, I positively had the vapors. Technically, as I gently hold her, the MBTI looks at preferences rather than true strengths and weaknesses, but…something about the word “weakness” was just too real for me.
Turns out, working on your weaknesses can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
[Note: this post contains some vague-as-I-could-make-them spoilers]
Like many other martial arts enthusiasts and children of the 1980s, I was very excited to spend the final weekend of August bingeing both seasons of the breakout hit series “Cobra Kai” on Netflix. A friend, who is also a fellow taekwondo black belt, and I had watched the first season together when it debuted on YouTube Red in 2018. We loved it and marveled at how clever and heartfelt it was.
Much has changed in two years, both on a national and global scale, and also for me personally. I knew I’d be entertained by watching the series, but I didn’t realize how deeply therapeutic it would be.
A month and two days following my ACL reconstruction surgery, I had a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic surgeon. Two weeks earlier I’d seen one of his assistants to have my sutures and bandages removed and to get a play-by-play, complete with three pages of color photos, of the surgery.
I was hoping for some good news after a month of hard work at home and in physical therapy. I’d been cranky and depressed for the past week because a nasty case of topical dermatitis flared up around my incisions. The incisions themselves are fine, but the skin around it was red, itchy, and full of little bumps that give my skin the appearance and feel of a very tightly inflated (i.e., one Tom Brady might allegedly avoid) football.
I did something new in physical therapy this week: I rode a stationary bike.
I’m three weeks into ACL reconstruction surgery recovery. The sutures are out, leaving me with only a few small scars (thanks to arthroscopic surgery), and most of the time, I can walk around in my house with just my big leg brace, sometimes with one crutch if I’m tired. I still need a crutch to walk up and down my steep stairs, but I’m getting pretty good at that too.
I was a little surprised when my physical therapist told me to start with the bike when I entered the clinic Monday morning. I figured he’d want me to do my regular warm-ups to ease the morning stiffness out of my leg. It’s still very difficult to bend my knee beyond ninety degrees. This was going to be interesting.
To my surprise, my physical therapist casually mentioned that I should start doing slow-motion forms to work on balance and transferring weight back and forth on my legs. I’m nearly three weeks post-op from ACL reconstruction surgery, and, if I’m careful, I can move around the house with just my leg brace. I was excited about the prospect.
I’ve done forms as mental therapy. I’ve never done them as physical therapy, so this will be a new recovery/martial arts adventure for me.
According to my mother, I began walking shortly before my first birthday.
Yesterday, about a month after my forty-first birthday, I learned how to walk again.
I had a 9:00 am physical therapy appointment with Cody, my long-time therapist and injury wizard. He was expecting another patient in thirty minutes, so he decided we would work on walking since I could now put more weight on my right leg (not my full weight, but more than fifty percent), and then I could do the exercises I already knew on my own.