I knew something was quite wrong with my left knee again and this didn’t feel good. I had arrived at the field hockey match 20 mins late, with the wrong shoes and went straight on to the match without a warm up. My left knee which had an anterior cruciate re-graft 8 years ago had been great for 6 seasons of hockey so I never thought it would give me any problems again. It had been a miracle that what was going to happen today (or something worse) hadn’t happened earlier.
But today was the day. I was defending a short corner penalty and as first runner I sprinted at the hitter. My left knee seemed to give way about three quarters of the way to the hitter. I tried to run again and the same giving way again. Went out for a run the day after, and when running and changing direction, the knee seem to give way lightly again. The whole torn cruciate ligament nightmare seemed to be coming back. I had no choice but to stop playing 5-a-side football at work every Monday night. And I wasn’t happy at this situation.
I saw my GP and got referred to an muscle and skeletal clinic, and started seeing a physio regularly. It turned out that my left leg with it’s thighs and quad muscles had never really had the full rehab after the cruciate ligament regraft and had been approx 15-20% smaller than my right leg! On that day, without a warm up, the wrong shoes and making a sprint (all the wrong combinations of events), I had pulled off and broken supporting tendons on my left knee (which was the leg of my cruciate regraft). This apparent difference in leg size had gone unnoticed for the last 9 years and the loading on my left knee had been asymmetric and larger than the right knee all these years. What I had missed to do all those years ago was the final part of my rehab. This was to go to the gym and build up the left hand knee thigh and quad to the level of the right hand one. I was lucky not to have pulled the cruciate ligament again though, which showed how well it had actually healed and rebuilt all those years despite the heavy loading.
Basically I have tendinitis on my left knee, which is essentially a career finishing injury and rehab for this is very difficult. I didn’t give up though, and one of my tutoring clients happened to be a private physio. She showed me a bunch of exercises to bring my left knee, quad and thighs to the same size as the right, and a load of other stability exercises. I did these steadily over the years, and slowly the left knee has caught up with the right knee and they are almost the same size now. I hit the gym and started running, further increasing strength and flexibility. As the muscles around the left knee increased in strength, the loading on the actual knee got reduced and the effect of the tendinitis started being less and less. I was now able to run regularly on a field, play 5-a-side football with students and children, and even sprint again. This felt so liberating!
This year I knew I was ready for hockey again. My team only plays one re-union match every year and for the last six years I was at the pitch supporting, but sadly not playing. This year I felt strong with my legs, knees and fitness so I jumped on the pitch. All the old memories, thrills and team camaraderie spirit came back and it felt like I had never left the pitch.
Despite knowing how much of a set back my injury could have been and being annoyed at having injured myself, I pulled myself out of all that, did what I could do to improve the support around my knee as much as a possible and I pushed myself in an inner battle to get back on that pitch again, felt amazing and one of many more appearances no doubt 🙂 I hope that there is someone out there who can learn from my mistake and to make sure they will totally complete their post ACL regraft rehab, always warm up before matches and definitely not play in the wrong shoes. It simply is not worth it.