At the end of Week 6 the operated leg seems very nearly completely recovered from the trauma of the operation, itself, though it remains early days until full recovery. That is, the wounds are fully closed, the swelling in the lower leg is gone and much reduced around the knee and nerve tingling around the knee much subsided. Mobility is up and stairs – going up or going down – aren’t something I have to consciously deal with at this stage and walking about town is also a non-issue; walked for 2 and a half hours today up to and around a local street market with absolutely no pain, twinging or fatigue in the knee. So while the symptoms of the trauma of the operation are greatly reduced, the robustness of the graft and the coordination of the knee still has many months of rehab to go; I can now more fully appreciate why meniscal clean up has a 6-8 week recovery period – once the knee has gotten over the trauma of being messed with it is pretty much good to go, whereas with a ligament reconstruction the graft, itself, needs to properly strengthen and bond with your structures.
Was cleared by the surgeon at the 6-week check up this past week. The orthopedic was happy with the stability of the graft and suggested I was looking at a year to training at full capacity. Of course the ortho doesn’t really ‘know’ what BJJ is, however a surgeon on the team does MMA and snapped his ACL in a match; a year and half later, he snapped it again. Yes, that was a less than heartening piece of news, given the assumption that a knee surgeon would work the rehab programme well and not return too early to training. I have very little info on the context of this case, but it wasn’t the best news to receive. It would be much more helpful to have clear things to avoid for when I do return to the mats and I believe my sports physio can help with that; of course going from naught to full leg attacks in a leap is ludicrous, but I think that there will be plenty I can safely achieve in technical work from 6 months and light sparring from 9. I do think that I will be putting some parameters around what I am willing to train when I am on the other side of this rehab in order to minimise risk of further injury to my compromised knees, but will work through that in due course.
Mixed it up a bit with the rehab this week. Joined the social fitness gaming network, Fitocracy, which is a fun way to track rehab work and helps to make the process a bit less grinding and dull. Tried WheyHey whey protein ice cream, which was pretty delicious, but too expensive for my budget to act as a regular post-workout snack. Took my 3 gym rehab sessions a little further this week and not only was there marked improvement in hamstrings to the extent that ‘pull’ on bike was much stronger and more coordinated than previously, but also worked 17 minutes of continuous solo BJJ drills during my Friday session:
- Back break fall to stand up in base (also referred to as ‘technical stand up’) alternating sides
- Bridge and shrimp, both sides
- Elbow to knee scoot to turtle, both sides
Worked 50 reps of each drill. Went into it aiming for 100 reps, but the knee would not handle that. The different movement was very challenging for it and while I worked non stop, I did not work with power and dynamism and ‘listened’ to any twinging to indicate fatigue barriers being breached. To compensate for this extra load on the knee dropped the elliptical/cross-trainer work from 15 to 10 minutes for that session and while the knee was sore that evening it felt fine the next morning which seems, to my mind, to indicate that I can safely integrate that sort of work into my weekly routine. Conditioning work continues a pace and while I couldn’t crack 4 reps of chin-ups this week, I will persevere and, in any event, I was able to do three sets with 3,2,2 reps, which is a vast improvement. Also bumped up to 11kgs on the curls. Fingers crossed the Physio clears me for the leg press machine in Week 7.
Week 6 followed the same mix and match of exercises as Week 5 rehabilitation. Meeting with Physio in Week 7 and hope to diversify.
- BJJ solo drills (that work up some core muscles that’ve been on break!)
- Cleared 6-week check up
- No need for painkillers at the end of the day
- Extended walking without pain or concern
- Easy stair use and can gamble up and down without conscious placement of feet and weight
Every ACL op and recovery will be particular to the person. The thoughts and experiences recalled in this series of posts is in no way intended as medical advice or as a replacement for seeking medical attention for any injury. This information is presented merely as a record of one person’s experience with ACL operation and recovery.