ACL reconstruction +4 days

Range of motion: 110 degrees flexion

Week 1 exercises:

*weighted if appropriate

Bad news

I come home from MRI to a ringing telephone. It’s the Sports Medicine doc.

This is fast.

“Hey, you tore your ACL. I’ll get you to the Orthopedic Surgeon and we’ll go from there.”

“Is that the only damage?”

“They’ll check for other damage in the OR but for now that’s the only damage I see in the imaging.”

Sigh.

“Hey man, now that we know what’s wrong, we can fix this. We go to the next step. We just have to take one step after the other.”

MRI

The Sports Medicine doc sets me up with crutches and a knee splint to keep it immobilized. I get in a shared Lyft even though I live 10 blocks away. I just can’t hobble home yet.

This person who picks me up has a really messy car that is being used as a Lyft vehicle. The driver is a bit larger than I am. I get in the front seat with some difficulty, the splint keeping my leg straight and the crutches not exactly helping me look graceful. I sit, and then jump. I have just sat on a metal fork, presumably belonging to the driver.

The other passenger in the back seems to give me a look that says, “How dare you order a shared ride in MY Lyft…”

Anyway, I get home and lie on the floor. For an hour. This is just depressing. And the wait for answers is excruciating.

Somehow I make it through the night.

The next morning, I called MRI like the doctor said, and holy shit – someone did cancel and just like that I have an afternoon appointment.

I wait some more.

I order another shared Lyft, and a very nice driver and a very nice passenger arrive. Both of them know a thing or two about knee injuries. We chat. These little moments are quite pleasant.

I arrive at Radiology and change into another complicated gown for the MRI. One technician seems to know someone who retired from where I work and we joke a bit about it. The other technicians are all very kind. They ask if I am claustrophobic and stress how still I will need to be for 20-25 minutes if I don’t want to be in there for more than that. I am not claustrophobic at all but frankly now I am all stressed out about not being still enough.

If you haven’t had an MRI, basically, you lie on this narrow, hard table which goes into this small tube leading to a large, ring-like structure that makes really loud, unsettling noises. Some people are actually too big to fit on the table or in the tube. A computerized voice gives you instructions. Some units play easy music to sooth you.

I focus on staying as still as possible. I really don’t want to trouble these technicians and waste their time. I still foolishly hope that the MRI will say it’s not the ACL.

I get in another shared Lyft. This time a young woman in the back seat is actually giving the driver some major attitude because the driver picks me up before she is dropped off. The driver reminds her, matter-of-factly, that she ordered and is paying for a shared ride. When he drops her off in the rear parking lot of a building I know, it turns out that she could have gotten off in the front of the building before I was picked up because they actually drove past the front to pick me up, but she refused. Stupid. The driver and I remind each other that we don’t have time for such idiots so why stress about it.

Sports Medicine

I am at the Orthopedics Department seeing a Sports Medicine specialist. I know my last insurance company would not have gotten me here 2 days after the injury, so I really have no complaints. Now I’m just hoping it’s not a very serious injury. Of course, that’s highly unlikely, given what happened.

The specialist asks me about the events leading up to the injury, physically examines my leg in a few different ways, and ends with the Lachman test.

As I’ve mentioned before, most of the pain is on the lateral side of the knee. Instinctively – with a large dose of hopeful delusion – I am fearing an LCL injury.

He says, “We will need an MRI to confirm this, but I really think you’ve torn your ACL.”

Just about the most frightening 3-letter combination in the English language for any active person.

“Umm… A… CL?”

“Yes.”

“Not the LCL?”

“No, it feels fine.”

“So why is all of the pain on the outside of the knee?”

In reality, bone bruising and pain on the lateral side are very common because of the way the distal femur and the proximal tibia “collide” with each other in the moments the knee loses its stability after the ACL rupture.

“How definitive is the MRI?”

“Almost 100%. Looks like the next available appointment is 2 weeks out, but just call them tomorrow and see if people cancel. You won’t have to wait 2 weeks.”

X-ray

It’s afternoon now, the day after the injury. My knee is full and swollen, but not very painful; just uncomfortable. I can’t straighten it completely.

Even though my primary doctor is on vacation, she still sends me a reply through the insurance app.

“Hey, go to Radiology. I already put you in for X-rays. They’re open until 9pm.”

That’s just efficient.

So we get over there, and very quickly got the X-rays done after changing into the very complicated wraparound gown that seems to have 13 flaps. The technician says this is just to rule out any immediate problems like fractures. The films are going to be read within 20 minutes remotely, so just hang tight.

As expected, no fractures or dislocations. Just effusion. Fancy word for swelling.

We go home. It’s well past dinner time. Another message arrives in my app. Primary doc again.

“Hey, the only Ortho appointment I can get is tomorrow at 3:30pm. Can you make it?”

I love this woman.

“Of course I’ll take it. I want this diagnosed right now!”

More waiting. I try to sleep, with my leg propped up.

I jammed my knee… hard

I’m playing central defense. I’m quite mobile and I do this a lot – I nip in front an attacker to win the ball with my body position. I slip in front of him, leading with my right leg, step over the ball, and I’ve got it.

I’m going to poke it back to the goalkeeper with my left, and the attack is halted.

Except my right foot plants and my body keeps going. Because my leg buckles. I both feel and hear a coarse “pop.” I swing my left leg in desperation now to poke the ball back to the goalkeeper as I planned but it flails wildly and catches nothing but air. The attacker takes the ball, advances, and scores.

I’m still down on the grass.

It doesn’t really hurt. But it feels very “full” and swollen. And I can’t really bend my knee all the way.

I know I fucked my knee up because this type of non-contact pivot shift injury is not going to turn out good.

I eventually get up with some help and limp off the field. I can feel something similar to my fibula popping out laterally, but I only make this happen twice before the swelling keeps me from replicating this. The knee even starts to feel better. Like many players before me with a knee injury – and you see this all the time – I start thinking I can return to play already.

I choose the smarter route and take off my boots. I feel more pain on the lateral side, and I think I probably hurt my LCL, which is, obviously and correspondingly, on the outside of the knee.

I get home and contact my primary doctor on the insurance company app. What a great tool. I tell her I jammed my knee really hard and ask if she can refer me to an orthopedic specialist. Thank goodness this is not like my old insurance company, which does not have an app, and where I would have to physically go see the primary doctor in person just to be told I need to see an orthopedic specialist. It also helps that I only ever contact her for actual medical needs, and she knows when she hears from me I am truly in need of some assistance.

Now I wait.