Disclaimer: I am not a medical or health care provider of any kind. These articles are written from the perspective of a patient. Please follow the instructions of your health care provider.
So it happened to you. The infamous “knee blowout” they talk about in sports or dance movies but never show in detail. You felt the pop in your leg and were on the ground before you knew what happened.
You have a torn ACL. Now what?
Congratulations! You’ve now joined the elite club of ACL Warriors.
I had this really weird thought recently: “I could just quit taekwondo and not care about it at all.” I love taekwondo, and at that time I had that thought I was looking forward to going back to regular classes.
I’m positive it came from a place of placid laziness rather than a dislike for my martial art. I love being a homebody, and for a while thanks to the pandemic and my prolonged injury recovery, my partner and I had a nice routine of eating dinner and watching TV every night (sometimes with a Boggle or Scrabble game thrown in).
Our routine was safe, easy, and cozy, and all that TV and movie-watching did inspire us to start a movie/TV-themed podcast…so it’s productive time, right? I don’t have to put on shoes. I don’t have to drive. It’s wonderful. I could stay inside my house forever.
But damn if it isn’t the BEST feeling on the other side of a taekwondo class–I’m sweaty, tired, full of endorphins, and have gotten to spend time with people I like (but for a limited, doable time; prolonged time spent with people cramps my style). My partner goes to a black belt-level grappling class with me so I have a built in training buddy to work on techniques with. I’m really happy to be back after being out of the game for so long.
Funny how I procrastinate the two things I love to do and the two things I’m best at–taekwondo and writing. I will literally do anything to get out of creative writing–clean the toilets, fold laundry, work on a smaller writing deadline. But when I get on the other side of a writing spurt I feel amazing. I trick myself into working by setting a timer. So far that’s the only method I’ve found for making myself sit down and work.
I’m feeling happy at this point in my life. All is well. I guess it’s time to chip away at old habits and build new ones.
Unlike some of my other blog posts, I’m not offering a solution. I’m just sharing an observation.
Today (a Saturday) I recorded the first of seven podcast interviews my publicist booked for the month of April. I’ve written several articles said publicist has pitched to online media, and I have more items on my to-do list. There’s an essay contest I want to enter (but I have to write the essay first), and in my dining room I have a box of books that I’m slowly figuring out how to divvy up among family, friends, and business associates.
“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.