How I blew my knee

The initial injury started over 6 months ago. I had been on a stag over the August bank holiday in Berlin. I returned on the Monday and decided it would be a good idea to play in a pre season basketball game  on the Tuesday night to sweat of the excesses of the weekend. The game was against a bunch of keen under 18 national league kids. It all went wrong as quick as the first quarter when I jumped to grab a rebound and one of the opposition players decided it was a good idea to try and steal the ball while I was still in the air. He didn’t get the ball but succeeded in twisting my body so my legs were then up in the air and consequently I landed on the side of my foot with my left knee at 90 degrees. This put all the force through my knee and was the source of my initial injury. If you are one of those sick people who like to watch sporting injuries here are a couple for you — a lot worse than mine but both still play in the NBA today.

As I landed my first thought was that I’d broke my leg similar to the videos so I was relieved when my leg was still pointing in the right direction.  The pain was immense though and I was helped off the court In a bit of a state.

I couldn’t drive and was in shock sitting on the sidelines (feeling hot/cold and sick) and so I got my Dad to pick me up and take me to A&E. I finally got to see the doctor at around 2.00am (approximately 5 hours after it had happened) and he decided I’d got a ‘soft muscle tissue injury’. He dismissed any damage to the ACL based on the ‘hugely scientific diagnosis’ that I would be screaming a lot more if had torn my ACL. He did say that if it swelled up in the coming days I should go to my GP but I think this was a throw away comment to a certain extent as it was pretty obvious it would swell up given the injury I had.

I returned home satisfied that I hadn’t done anything serious but in the back of my mind I was not 100% convinced as I knew it was worse than anything I’d done previously. After a couple of day as the swelling got worse I decided to take the advice from A&E and visit my GP to get a second opinion. I also wanted to check that I’d be ok to get on a flight with so much swelling as I was going on holiday a few days later.

On entering the GP surgery it was obvious he was not interested from the outset. He dismissed the advice of A&E to see him if the knee swelled as he said this would always happen and was not an indicator of anything. I told him what happened and after minimal examination he agreed with A&E that it was a soft muscle tissue injury. He advised that within 4 weeks I should be able to walk on it again with no pain and that within 6-8 weeks I’d be fine to start running again.

I took his advice and did my own rehab as I saw fit (squats, yoga, jogging etc) to get to a place where I could return to normal exercise again. In the back of my head I kept  telling myself to ‘man-up’/’no pain no gain’ etc as I’d not done anything serious and that I should expect some pain getting back to full fitness. By 7 or 8 weeks (and as a reason to not watch strictly on a Saturday) I was able to run again reasonably fast:

https://www.strava.com/activities/752699296/embed/f341bbe51457bc22254aa77bcbee599f17415a6b

It hurt a bit but like I said above I expected that. After another couple of weeks I stepped it up again and after putting myself through my own fitness test I started playing football again.

https://www.strava.com/activities/755369104/embed/dcf94accad0cda641662aa9a42296102e1017139

I ‘only’ play in goal so I’m not continuously tackling but it is still a lot of twisting and turning. Generally playing wasn’t too uncomfortable except when I squatted right down but it was getting better on a week by week basis.

In December I then decided it was time to return to playing basketball – a big mistake. I’d now had 3 and a half months off which was a lot longer than the 6-8 weeks that the doctor had recommended and I’d been playing football so I thought I’d be fine. This was not the case and the first time I jumped and had to land on my left knee on its own it just gave way underneath me and I had to stop. Unlike the first time there was no twisting or eccentric loading (word for the engineers there) and it was just a normal landing. The pain was nowhere near as bad as the first time but I knew it would lead to a few more weeks on the sidelines.

At first I told myself that it was me coming back to early and that I hadn’t done enough exercises to get the strength back in my knee before playing again. As the weeks went by I knew this wasn’t the case. This time I did the same kind of exercises to rehab my but also started doing quite a few Joe Wicks HIIT sessions but I just had no stability in my knee so was all over the place doing any kind of dip or squat exercises.

In February I therefore decided it was time to go back to the GP and get his thoughts. I saw a different one this time and his attitude and outlook was totally different. He took a very proactive approach and was looking to get to the root of the problem from the outset. He did a series of tests (Lachman, valgus etc) and within literally a couple of minutes he was able to conclude that the ACL was torn. To a certain extent this was a relief as it confirmed the severity of the injury which I had always suspected.

I was then sent to see an orthopaedic consultant who confirmed the GPs suspicions on the ACL but also suspected that I had torn my meniscus. He said that it was likely that my ACL was torn initially and I then damaged my meniscus when I returned to playing basketball.

I then went for an MRI to confirm the above. The worst bit about the MRI was that I had to go to Man City’s ground to have it done; I’ve had enough bad news delivered from that place for a lifetime, I didn’t need anymore.

Anyway, to cut a long story short (this post is already epic) the above was correct but the ACL was actually ruptured and not just torn, there was damage to the MCL plus there were a few other bits and bobs from previous injuries that had never been diagnosed. The orthopaedic consultant advised that I could have physio to try and build the muscles up around my knee but ultimately if I wanted to return to playing contact sport with any kind of twisting and turning then surgery was the answer.

So on to see the surgeon…. the surgeon agreed with the orthopaedic consultant but due to the extent of the damage to the MCL, this would also need fixing too which meant it wasn’t just going to be key hole and there would have to be a large incision down the side of my knee. So that was that and 2 weeks ago I had the surgery – you can see how it went in my other posts.

I’ve always been one of those people that has avoided googling things to try and find out more because I feel there is so much ‘fake news’ around (maybe Trump is right) and you can misdiagnose and scare yourself very easily. I’ve also previously taken the opinion that you should trust the professionals that are paid to do their job and not go in with preconceived ideas as that is what I’d hope people do when they come to me for advice (I design offshore platforms for fires and explosions). In this instance I would have been in a much better place if I’d have done a bit of research regarding ACL injuries before seeing the GP for the first time. How I did my ACL is pretty much the ‘dictionary definition’ of how it happens and I felt the pop in my knee as expected.  If I’d have been a bit stronger in the initial consultation with my GP and challenged him a bit more then I feel the injury would have been diagnosed and I would never returned to running, football or basketball so quickly which ultimately made everything worse. I also never realised how ‘easily’ or quickly your body can recover from an ACL injury as I always thought it would be months after seeing sportsman doing similar injuries not the TV.

Ultimately I hold A&E and the GP partly responsible for not diagnosing the injury in the first place.  The consultants and physios I’ve seen agree that it should have been picked up but these things happen and it is now all about getting back to full fitness.

Sorry this has been a bit of an epic and congratulations if you’ve got down to the end of this post…..

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