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ACL Blog: Part 3 – Months 3 and 4…

25th February 2012 – From the advice of my surgeon, I increased the exercise I was doing in order to continue strengthening my quad and hamstring. I cycled at a quicker pace, with more resistance and for longer. I also started doing more exercises involving my leg. I used the quad and hamstring weight machines in the gym for the first time and used a kettle bell when doing squats to create a bit more resistance than just that of my body weight. I made sure that I was working my leg more rather than sticking to doing exercises incorporating my left leg, but making sure as to not put it under much strain. I was now off of crutches but still didn’t feel much at ease for anything other than a slow walk on flat, even ground.

Deadlines loomed and illness struck keeping me from going to the gym for a couple of weeks which was very frustrating. I managed to keep up with a few of the exercises at home, but when you’re ill you just don’t feel like straining yourself too much. Plus my mind was concentrated solely on the work that I had to do. It was a minor setback, but played on my mind a quite a bit.

I returned home for the Easter break that I had from University and visited the physio. He gave me a few more exercises to do in which to strengthen my leg muscles whilst work on my balance a bit more. These included single leg squats, which really worked my quad as well as helping me focus on regaining balance in my left leg. This was also to help the nerves in my ACL to start interacting with my brain again as when I tore it, the blood supply through the ligament had stopped and this meant that the nerves had stopped working.

25th March 2012 – I reached a massive personal goal and went out for a cycle ride with my Dad for the first time since my injury. It was only a gentle cycle that probably lasted less than half an hour, but to be doing exercise whilst outside in the open air felt much better than being in a gym facing a wall next to some sweaty man I did not know. At least this way I knew that that man was my Dad. It was also nice knowing that I now had another way of getting around other than walking at a slow pace or being driven/driving somewhere as it was slightly too far to walk.

I had also gone out and bought myself a cheap gym (Swiss) ball from the advice of another physio that I had a session with during my time at home. This allowed me to do more towards recovering at home and is also a flattering addition to my already clustered room.

Walking had become much easier at this stage and getting around is much quicker now that I can use stairs without too much of a problem. I no longer have to search out lifts and ramps all the time. I am still finding walking downstairs to be a bit of a problem though; I am not able to walk down at a constant speed as my left leg struggles to cope with the weight when my leg is bent whilst moving my right leg down to the step below.

10th April 2012 – 136 days after tearing my ACL, I ran for the first time. It was not at a very fast pace, it was not for a great period of time, and it was only back and forth in the car park of the physio, but I knew that it was a massive step in my recovery. My knee felt a bit sore afterwards, but I guess that was to be expected with not having used my leg in a high impact manner for 4 ½ months.

The next day I ran a few lengths of my garden as a warm up before I started doing my exercises for the day and felt OK but I was still very wary about every step I took with my left leg. The day after, I was back at the physio and did some interval running on the treadmill, and this time it felt amazing. There was no longer a dull pain in my left knee and I felt more confident about each step so I was able to keep my head up and just run. I probably only managed about 4 minutes of running but it felt natural and invigorating. I didn’t really want to stop.

13th April 2012 – NEW SHOES!

On advice from friends and my dad, I decided that I should get a decent pair of running shoes now that I was at that stage in my rehabilitation. My dad suggested a specialist running shop in Portsmouth where they spend about half an hour thoroughly examining you by conducting a biomechanical assessment. They look at the way you stand, the curve in your knees, bow in your legs, the way you walk (gait) and jog etc, then they give you advice and suggest the correct footwear for you. I now have a pair of the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn and they help reduce the strain that my legs take whilst running.

I recommend to anyone who is thinking of getting some running shoes to pay that extra bit more and get a decent pair after being examined by a biomechanical specialist. Especially if you have any sort of current leg injury or are injury prone. It is definitely worth it.

I was extremely excited about the next few months of my recovery; the thought of running really buoyed me, along with the notion of regaining all of the fitness I had lost over the past few months.

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ACL Blog: Part 2 – Months 1 and 2…

It was probably about 3 hours after surgery that a physio came in to my room and went through all of the exercises that I could start doing. They were mainly aimed at helping to get my quads to fire; this is as they had not been used for the last 6 weeks whilst I was non weight bearing on crutches. About an hour after, another physio returned who helped me to start bearing weight on my leg whilst still on crutches. With it being 6 weeks since I had last walked, she had to explain to me the basics of how the leg is meant to move when walking. Still, I managed to walk whilst putting some weight onto my leg and even managed to walk up a few steps that were placed out in the hallway.

Less than a week after the surgery I went to the recommended local(ish) physio where he went over the exercises that I had already been given and showed me how to maximise the effect that each one had. He also went over how important stretching out my calf and hamstring would be in the recovery process. They, along with my quadriceps, had lost a lot of muscle mass whilst also becoming tight due to not being used for 6 weeks, stopping my leg from straightening fully.

I started heading to the gym in my second week back in Brighton. There’s a matted area designed for doing exercises and stretches which is perfect as it is much softer to sit and lie on than the wooden floor in my bedroom and there is much more space. It also allowed me to do some working out on the equipment whilst I was there. There is a selection of seated, upper body, weight machines which were perfect for me to use as no strain goes through my legs, and more importantly my knee, but they allow me to start re-strengthening muscles in my upper body.

I was told that using the cycling machines in the gym would be a good exercise to help and get some muscle mass and strength back into my quad, but to start by keeping the saddle a bit closer to the pedals than usual. This meant that my quad was doing most of the work and my knee was getting used to bending whilst being used for power but in a low impact way. Jumping or running would of course be high impact on my knee. I decided to start by cycling on the recumbent fitness bikes that were at the gym as I felt less weight would go through my knee sitting down and cycling as opposed to a position more similar to standing up.

I have listed the distance and times I cycled for during each gym session below and have calculated the approximate speed I was cycling at. This is more to show how the strength and endurance of my leg increased during the first few weeks of cycling.

25th Jan – 2.8km in 18mins (5.8mph)

29th Jan – 5.3km in 18mins (11.0mph)

1st Feb – 6.2km in 18mins (12.8mph)

5th Feb – 5.45km in 12mins (16.9mph)

8th Feb – 4.6km in 9mins (19.1mph)

15th Feb – 5.2km in 10mins (19.4mph)

I got some good news when I went to see my surgeon for a check up on 24th February, he said that my knee was stable and the meniscus tears have healed well over time. He was very happy with my progress since the surgery and was pleased that I hadn’t over done it and caused myself more damage by trying to do too much on it. He was also able to inform me as to why I was feeling pain underneath my knee whilst walking and also why my knee clicked quite a bit when bending/straightening my leg. However, he made it clear that the rest of my recovery was down to the effort that I was to put in from now on. My left quadricep was still lacking muscle mass and strength; this was what was causing my knee cap to not being kept in place properly, hence my patella tendon (the tendon just below the knee cap) being sore and the clicking that happened when straightening my leg. The best news he gave me was that I was allowed to start on quad strengthening exercises as my knee had become stable enough to cope with more strain.

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What I learned this week

Welcome to my first Mohawks blog entry and I’m delighted to be writing it. It is called ‘What I learned this week’, or WILTW. You often hear experienced players saying “I still learn something every time I play” and I thought I’d put this to the test.

So each week I’ll draw on happenings at our practices to explain some new idea or epiphany which I have come upon in that week.

My main aim is to stimulate some thought and conversation about whatever it is I’ve chosen to write about, so please feel free to comment below each blog entry with what YOU learned this week (WYLTW) or further discussion. Be sure to check the blogs section regularly!



Week One: A New Hope

Resolve is a really important word at this time of year. It is where we get the word ‘resolution’ from, as in “I’ve broken my new year’s resolution already.” Resolve can describe the quality of an action, “She progresses with a great deal of resolve” as well as being something you can do “He resolves to be a kinder person” and something which you can lack in general, “She has no resolve whatsoever.”

First let me assure you, nobody remembers the practice the last term where you couldn’t catch anything, or that time you just forgot how to throw a sidearm, or the Callaghan you were responsible for at regionals, or the time you were so offside that the pull hit you in the back of the head. You might remember them but we don’t. That means the new term is a great time to start afresh and resolve to form some new habits.

Most people find it hard to break habits because their life is so monotonous, but as a student you are in a unique position in that your life is segmented into chunks of 10 weeks at a time, with a rest in between. This means that at the beginning of every term you get a new schedule with new deadlines and, most importantly, the opportunity to form new habits. Whether that’s a big thing like making time to chuck around with somebody regularly, hitting the gym a couple of times a week, or a small thing like doing 25 press ups and 25 sit-ups every day before breakfast – it only takes a little resolve to get it done.

Most importantly you have to start right now. It’s already the end of week two (I admit, my blog is running late) and as time goes on fixing your bad habits is only going to get harder. So if you’re sat at home thinking to yourself “Yeah – from Monday I’ll definitely do more core work at home”, or “Once I’ve handed in this essay I’ll start going for a run in the evenings”, or “Next practice I’ll work on my side-arm huck” then that’s no good. Imagine you have a limited store, a finite amount of resolve. By promising yourself that tomorrow you’ll go for a 5km run, you use up some of that resolve in simply deciding to go for the run (call this resolving to resolve to do something), so that when you get to tomorrow the resolve you have left in reserve isn’t enough any more to force you to put on your trainers and make it happen.

So instead, get out and do it now. Right now. You’re not doing anything right now so put on your running shoes, or grab a disc, or get into the plank and resolve to keep doing it. Believe me, it’s much easier to resolve to do something that you’re already doing.