Tag Archives: physical therapy

Will I recover? Can I do what I love again?

Getting injured stinks.
I was just a beginner snow-skier when I injured my knee. Somehow I’d found myself on the Austrian Alps with Steve, the man I would eventually marry. I was looking down a black diamond run before I even knew what that meant. The town was Bad Gastein, Austria. Everyone there sounded like Arnold Schwarzenegger. 🙂 I didn’t know how to turn and I didn’t know how to stop. Lucky for me, Steve wasn’t interested in me for my skiing skills – he would surely have been turned off by my spectacular wipe-outs. I loved skiing – even falling was fun! – in soft, forgiving terrain. But now in Bad Gastein, I was in way over my head.
Ski conditions were bad (mostly ice), my bindings were too tight, and I was nervous. Steve was trying to help. He was a much better skier than I was. We were on a patch of ice. My ski caught and I fell awkwardly, folding over sideways. Bindings didn’t release, and my bodyweight torqued and twisted my knee. I felt it rip, and I knew it was “bad pain”. It swelled and throbbed, but I did not see a doctor. (Big mistake.) About 8 months later, I was dancing with my friends, having a ball. Suddenly, I felt my knee SNAP! I grabbed the railing to keep from falling. It was too painful to bear any weight. My friends had to carry me out and drive me to the hospital. I’m sure I was not the first, nor the last, to be carried out of that college bar – but most others for different reasons.

I learned that the skiing incident caused a lot of damage, and my funky dance moves dealt “the final blow”. I now had a fully torn ACL (anterior cruciate ligament). The scar tissue had to be forcefully pulled apart. Excruciating! Besides the torn ACL, surgery revealed torn cartilage and a stretched LCL (lateral collateral ligament). I was so happy when that Godforsaken cast came off and I could move my leg again – even as beat-up, deflated and flaccid as it looked. I wondered, how well can I recover from this? and how long will it take? Will I be able to do what I love again?

Pain killers and ice helped almost as much as flowers from Steve!
And so began the strengthening process. Besides the physical pain, it was a mental challenge too.  I was used to feeling strong, active, athletic, healthy, competitive, independent, a team player. Unable to run or play sports or work up a sweat like I used to, I’d lost my way of relieving stress. Sound familiar?

FullSizeRenderMy way of getting through this was by listening to my body – being ultra-aware of the position of my knee, what kind of pain I was feeling – was it good pain or bad pain? I remember feeling so refreshed and relieved when I was finally able to run and dance again. It felt wonderful!

I have a soft spot in my heart for people with injuries – knees in particular. When I heard about Kailani’s, I felt especially bad. “Miss Kailani” is one of our babysitters. She is an excellent soccer player and has played competitively throughout high school. Summers, she works for Coach Ken’s soccer in Los Altos. She probably always envisioned her last year at Saint Francis including lots of soccer practices, games, wins, bonding with teammates, recruiters and soccer scholarships for college. But Kailani recently suffered 2 knee injuries – one on each leg. She had her second knee surgery and is now working hard to recover. Kailani doesn’t complain. She is tough, and she is handling all of it extraordinarily well. But I know she is heartbroken about not being able to play soccer in her senior year.

Kailani with her Mom, Kim. Last year, Kailiani had 2 Prom dates: 1 young man + 1 crutch.
Kailani, ready for surgery.

To me, it’s most impressive that instead of dwelling on the negative, Kailani has taken action. She has created something very positive that helps others – Goals for Girls, an after-school soccer program for girls in lower socio-economic areas. She feels strongly that sports are very valuable for children’s development and confidence, but many kids are not able to play. Kailani is rising above her setback, challenging and strengthening her mind while her body is recovering. What a dynamo! It will be a great experience for her and the young girls who participate. Please click here if you’d like to contribute. I think Kailani’s senior year is going to be even better than she imagined!

Here are some tips to prevent and recover from injury:
  • Listen to your body. No one knows your body better than you do. If something feels awkward or uncomfortable, or if you feel you are in over your head, stop!
  • Strengthen and condition your muscles.
  • In recreational sports and exercises, choose a partner that has a similar level of skill to yourself.
  • Try to learn the difference between good pain and bad pain.
  • Always see a doctor or therapist if you think you might have injured yourself.
  • Spice up your exercise regimen with things you really enjoy.
  • Always stretch before and after exercise. Gradually warm-up so your blood is flowing before you begin the most strenuous/dynamic parts of your workout. If you have knots, tightness or pain and you are participating in a group fitness class, get to class early enough to do your own stretching (in addition to the group stretching).
  • Always use proper form during exercises. Quality is better than quantity.
  • During standing exercises or stretches, keep a slight bend in your knees to prevent over-extension and allow proper blood circulation.
  • Get better at balance. Progress your exercises from 2-legs to single-leg, then stability balls or BOSU balls, etc. Add plyometrics gradually.
  • For skiing – Start with a lesson from a professional! Don’t ski in icy conditions unless you are an experienced skier. Make sure bindings are loose. Consider snowboarding instead of skiing. Falls on a snowboard are much less dangerous for your knees since both feet are on the same plane and there is little risk of the knees being twisted.
  • Exercise on smooth surfaces with proper footwear. In classes that involve fast footwork – turning, spinning, shuffling, etc. – wear shoes that allow your foot to swivel on the floor without catching or sticking. For Zumba, I recommend Zumba shoes – click here to shop. Use “boominbody” as the coupon code to get a 10% discount.
  • For existing knee pain, consider wearing kinesiology tape. Rocktape is one company that makes it. Use a foam roller and read this article for how to use it.
  • If you are injured and feel depressed, get moving in any way that you can (safely). Also find exercise for your brain.
  • Might sound cliche’ but… Have a sense of humor! If not about yourself, find something you can laugh about. It’s the best therapy.
I hope these tips are helpful to you. Please comment or share your own inspirational stories. Let me know if you would like my help to get/stay fit, prevent or recover from injury.