It’s now been three weeks since I had my ACL reconstruction and the recovery is coming along better than expected. Immediately after the operation I was advised by my surgeon that I would spend a minimum of ten days on crutches, and after twelve days I was back on my feet, albeit slowly!
The first week after the operation was spent confined to the sofa moving as little as possible and popping a ridiculous concoction of anti-inflammatories and pain killers. By day six I was ready to venture outside and did some light moving about. Returning to work nine days after the operation was actually the best thing for me as cabin fever had set in and the constant moving around helped keep the leg and muscles loose.
Since coming off the crutches the progress has been really evident on a daily basis. The swelling has gone down a lot and my initial limp has subsided, while all the pre-op pain that I had in the ACL area has gone completely. It was very apparent in the beginning, so much so I was nearly asked to leave a concert as the security thought I was too drunk. Stairs are still difficult to negotiate, though like everything else they are getting easier.
The key to my recovery is balance between the Iliotibial Band (ITB) and the Vastus Medialis Oblique (VMO). The ITB runs along the outside of the thigh and upper leg connecting the muscle between the fibular and tibia, while the VMO is one of the four quadricep muscles and is used to stabilise the patella. The ITB works overtime to compensate for the lack of strength in the knee and as a result becomes very tight. I have always had a tight ITB anyway so my physio has been doing a lot of work to loosen it out. The imbalance can lead to patellar maltracking problems and improper biomechanics of the knee-joint leading to pain and dysfunction.
The VMO is located on the inside of the knee as part of the quadricep muscles, and is the one you see when you flex that area. The VMO needs to be strengthened to balance with the ITB and this is done initially through simple controlled lunges. I have been doing them for over a week now and the difference is quite noticeable.
My latest physio session, and last until the middle of January, again involved more ITB and VMO work and I am now ready to begin trying sets of controlled squats to go with the lunges. In a week’s time I can move on to small step ups and am also doing glute and hamstring work. In January I hope to be able to get on an exercise bike and cycle a couple of kilometres, though initially there will be no resistance.
The prognosis to be back playing is great, and the target is to be fully fit by August. It’s only when you do the injury yourself that you realise how many other people have done the same thing. From a quick Google search, the list of Premier League players to have had the same reconstruction is quite lengthy and includes Michael Essien, Michael Owen, Anderson, Jimmy Bullard, James McFadden, Phil Jagielka, Mikel Arteta and Valon Behrami amongst others.