“Are you f**king kidding me?” was all I could say after I caught my breath, in-between screams of pain and obscenities. I had heard the dreaded “pop” and instantly knew what I had done. Once in a lifetime was bad enough, but twice? No way. How was it possible to blow out both knees within a time span of a few years. Was it stupidity? Probably. Was it bad luck? Definitely. As much as I willed the clock to turn back, I was stuck with the consequences—for the second time.
Working at a snowboard camp, I’ve seen some pretty gruesome injuries and on the whole injury scale, a torn ACL isn’t permanently debilitating or life-threatening—it just sucks. What it boils down to, after surgery, is being off the snow for six to eight months (realistically), rehab with a physical therapist (PT) for three, lots of red tape, and a whole wad of cash.
Money comes and goes, the red tape works itself out (with phone calls galore) but mentally and physically, I wasn’t prepared for rehab—even the second time. A successful rehabilitation is determined, mostly, by two things. The first is finding a PT who actually does something for you—things you can’t do on your own. This means using machines specific to PT offices, doing exercises with the PT’s guidance, and having them explain everything they’re doing for you, and why each exercise is helping the healing process. Your PT should also be familiar with rehabilitating athletes and ask questions specific to your injury—not just assume it’s an ACL injury like every other they’ve seen.
Orthopedic Certified Specialist (OCS) Therapists
We suggest finding an Orthopedic Certified Specialist (OCS) therapist, because they have at least five years in orthopedic training and have passed intensive board examinations. Out of the many PT offices I’ve been to for various injuries, I found my OCS therapist to be the most knowledgeable, progressive and personalized.
With that said, the second, absolute most crucial part of rehab is YOU. Rehab can’t be blown off, postponed, or neglected. “People that understand that there will be discomfort and who are willing to work through it are the ones who come through rehabilitation strongest,” says Jensen. “These people also stick with a program that has been designed for them by a PT and have incorporated it within their daily lives. Just because you don’t have a cavity doesn’t mean you stop brushing your teeth,” he goes on. “The same is true with rehabilitation.”
With the decision of surgery must come a commitment to rehab and taking the time to heal, or the whole grueling procedure will be a wash. This is proof coming from someone who had decided after the second ACL reconstruction, that surfing would be better than time spent in the gym. It was definitely good for the soul but the “involved” (PT talk for “injured”) knee almost gave when put to the test of riding down to the halfpipe last week at Mt. Hood. Eight months later, my lesson is learned, and I’m riding that stationary bike to China. There’s no way I’ll be missing the season this year.