On Super Bowl Sunday, in February of 2022, something happened that completely changed the way I lived and worked for the rest of this year. For the third time on the soccer field, I tore my ACL. I was devastated, especially because I have been through this before. I knew I had to travel to Las Vegas for a work conference in a few week’s time, I knew I had a real estate team to lead, and I also knew that I had played my last competitive match. Ever.
I know this doesn’t really have much to do with real estate, and that this is a slightly different video than you are used to on our channel, but I thought that I would share my story in hopes that you would gain some value from it! If you’re going through an injury like this, hopefully this video helps you get through it. Even if you aren’t injured like I was, I hope this story inspires you in some way!
So it all started at an indoor soccer match in the winter earlier this year.
It was late in the game and the score was tied. We were on offense but the ball was cleared and went straight to their lone attacker. I tried to step in front of him to intercept and while he was trying to shield the ball we collided and my ACL literally snapped in half. It was loud and it was immediately obvious. It was extremely painful obviously, but only for about 15 minutes. I knew this pain, I’ve had it before, I knew it was my ACL right away. The pain of ‘knowing’ what was ahead of me for the next 12 months was way worse. I took the next day off from work and was booked in to see a surgeon that very day, thanks to a referral from my primary physician Meg Macrae.
First doctor’s appointment:
I was ok going into my first appointment with the surgeon because I knew exactly what to expect and was, even at this early stage, excited to get my recovery and PT started. This was a 9-12 month process and I knew the sooner it began, the sooner it would be over. The surgeon scheduled first an x-ray then an MRI based on the swelling and my assurances that I knew I tore it. Once confirmed, I was not surprised or disappointed and had already accepted my fate. With Vegas coming up so quickly, I was eager to get my daily PT exercises down, and learn what I could do to have the best possible outcome this time around. I made a PT appt at NPT HealthWorks with Dr. Liz who got me started right away on pre-hab exercises as well as education on what surgery would look like, and what expectations I might need to have on my trip to Vegas. I felt ready to use the time before surgery to recover from the initial injury, and feel as strong as possible before surgery.
Surgery was April 14th. I was a little nervous of course, it’s a major surgery but honestly I was extremely excited to get it done and get to day one of recovery as I knew how long the road ahead was going to be. This time my surgeon and I chose a cadaver graft as I had previously used a patellar graft in my previous ACL tear.I felt better this time round as medical technology has improved significantly since 2007, and the surgery has evolved. However, post-operative management meant I had to remain mostly off my feet for the first four weeks, work mainly from home, and manage medications to ensure I was staying ahead of pain and inflammation. As can sometimes happen, the pain medications can have side effects such as nausea or drowsiness, and I chose to mainly focus on ice and rest as my main comfort measures. I was in touch with Dr. Liz, who helped me answer questions about what is “normal” as well as offer suggestions for pain management which was very reassuring in my recovery. Everyone’s bodies deal with anesthesia and pain differently, so it is helpful to be in touch with your surgeon or trusted PT to ensure you are doing everything you can to make the immediate post operative days as comfortable as possible.
I was back driving in two weeks and back to work at the office in four weeks. I had to ensure I had time built into my day to continue to ice, and manage my schedule in a way that didn’t exhaust me. Once I was able to ween off the crutches around week 6 the recovery became more straight forward. I still wore a brace to protect my knee but also to remind me of my surgery and to let others know to be careful and mindful around me. I had started PT about 4 weeks before my surgery and I highly advise you to do the same. Dr. Liz was very clear that decreasing the swelling from the acute injury, and getting full range of motion back in my knee were crucial ways to ensure a quicker healing process post operatively. She put me on an exercise routine I could do myself at Pulse gym, that involved working on range of motion and engaging my thigh and calf muscles. Many of these exercises would then become part of my routine after surgery, so it helped give me a sense of what I could expect in the future. Without being able to efficiently use my leg, I was losing muscle tone very quickly. Dr. Liz encouraged me to gain as much range of motion and strength as we could because it would only make the recovery smoother. As she put it, “Ideally you would like to be in such great shape with your walking pattern, range of motion, and strength that by the time surgery day comes that you almost feel like you do not even need surgery!” There are certain cases where people do not get surgery, but based on my active lifestyle as personal choice I knew surgery was the correct option for me. Because of all my pre-hab, I was able to get moving right into PT after surgery which focused on post operative pain management, managing the swelling and range of motion since these are the most crucial things immediately after surgery. Dr. Liz worked with me on my walking pattern, and I was able to wean off the crutches when I no longer had a limp. I continued to ice and work on exercises at home in between our sessions, and we slowly began strength training and biking to build back lost muscle. Dr. Liz continued to educate me on the healing process, and remind me to be patient as the graft healed. I likewise followed up with my surgeon, who was very pleased with my progress.
The period I would like to most warn you about is the time frame of week 10-16. During this time frame you are going to be walking normally, the swelling has gone significantly, if not entirely and you would be forgiven if you forgot you even had surgery recently. However, there is a point in time where the graft becomes weak as part of its healing process, and you can be vulnerable to re-injury if you are not mindful of the protocol. As Dr. Liz reminded me, if you know you have an active lifestyle, wearing your brace a little bit longer can help remind you to slow down. It is crucial during this time to focus on the PT, and making sure you do not do too much too fast as that can set you back. Regaining full range of motion and strength ensures you walk correctly, and ensures your knee will be protected long-term. You simply cannot rush the healing process, and your PT can be very helpful in talking through your return to exercises as you progress.
Right now i am 16 weeks out and looking forward to walking (for exercise) on a treadmill which will lead to light jogging hopefully by week 20. I continue to work with Dr. Liz to progress my exercises in preparation for being cleared to run. There are certain factors of strength, motor control, and endurance that I will need to safely return to running. Plus, a lot of patience!
It was a little depressing I have to admit the first few weeks, but I have accepted the fact that I will not play again and I’m ok with it. I feel good physically, the only issue I ever have with my knee is when I overdo a little on the walking but other than that I’m healing nicely. I put on about a stone but honestly that is expected and I’m confident these pounds will drop off once I’m back running consistently and taking part in local races again.
One thing I would share with anyone else going through this is to start PT before surgery. This made no sense to me but ended up being huge and made my progress through healing post surgery so much quicker and easier. Continue taking the anti-inflammatory and ice all the way through week 16 or until you feel the swelling is completely gone. The main thing I got out of this personally was getting my Sundays back. Between travel, pre-game, playing 90 minutes and post game refreshments, I was spending approx 5 hours away from my family every Sunday, my ONLY day off. I literally did this for decades and never questioned how much time it took. When I was looking for a new hobby I narrowed it down to golf or fishing but ended up replacing it with time with my family and for that, at least, I am thankful and can reference a silver lining.
I hope you guys found this video helpful and inspirational. If you did, feel free to leave a like and subscribe to the Fitzpatrick Team on YouTube. If you want to see more different content like this, comment down below and let us know! Thank you so much for watching, and we’ll see ya in the next one!
Did you tear your ACL?? Here are Dr. Liz’s 5 keys to the win to ensure a smooth recovery.
- Don’t panic! When you get the dreaded news, try to stay calm and recognize that surgery has come a long way! Surgeons have evolved their skills and the outcomes are truly amazing. Most people get back to everything they want to do, and in fact learn a lot about their bodies along the way!
- Pre-hab, pre-Hab, pre-hab! There is tons of evidence supporting improved outcomes for those who worked with a PT and gained the knowledge and exercises before that challenging post-operation time. You will feel more confident and will already have a relationship with your PT, so you are ready to rock usually week 2 after surgery!
- Do not compare yourself to others. Every surgery and every person is different,and that’s OK! Your PT should use the surgical protocol as a baseline for rehab, but treat you as an individual and make changes to ensure your rehab is YOURS!
- Patience is key, and you will lose some along the way. But, I promise by giving time to ensure proper healing and being honest with your expectations you can have a very smooth recovery. Progress is not always linear, and you may have moments of setback or frustration. YOur body is working hard to heal on the inside, and we have to give it the time it needs.
- Set yourself up for success!! Talk with your family and friends to coordinate rides and help with daily tasks. Set your downstairs up with what you need for the day so you don’t waste energy on the stairs during the day. Make it fun and have your kids do your exercises with you. Especially in the first 2 weeks, everything feels like a big task. Anything you can do to help set yourself up before surgery can help ease some of the immediate post operative frustrations!