Battling Back (Part 3)

by Neil Sherwin

It’s been a while since my last update (December 20th to be precise), mainly because very little happened for the first few weeks after it! For those that haven’t read this particular blog before, I play amateur football in Western Australia and am currently recovering from a ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL). The injury is more common than you would think, with David Meyler of Sunderland (left) amongst those to have done the same thing in the last year or so.

In my last post, I had just come off crutches and was starting to find my feet. On December 23 I flew home to Ireland for Christmas and was required to take blood thinning injections to prevent deep vein thrombosis. I didn’t have any problems while over there apart from general soreness which you just have to get on with. I tried to do as much walking as possible to keep it lose, but a 14km pub crawl probably wasn’t the best idea!

It’s very easy to sit around and do nothing during those first four or five weeks, especially as you cannot drive, but thankfully I had plenty of friends and family around to motivate me and keep me active.

I also got a nice itemised bill through the door confirming that there is a screw as well as a bone clamp just at the top of my shin. Even though the scarring is healing well you can still see and feel the screw in the form of a lump at the top of the skin. Chicks dig it!

Rehab and the ‘Reformer’

Since returning to Perth from Ireland in mid January I’ve been seeing my physio every Saturday morning for an hour to go through some more muscle stimulation and exercises. Originally I started with simple squats and step ups as well as leg raises using a fit ball to strengthen the hamstring which was used for the ligament graft. I have now progressed to more complex exercises and in the last fortnight have been allowed back on exercise bike, albeit with zero resistance.

I’ve also been using a machine called a ‘Reformer’ (see pic) which is used in Pilates. The Reformer allows for a controlled leg press movement through the use of springs while the patient lies horizontally. According to some physios, it may allow for earlier progressive load-bearing and squatting/lunging activities. The idea is to introduce consistent motion and defined joint ranges early in the rehabilitation period, allowing for exact functional patterns and muscle memory to be retrained. Then when the patient is ready to weight-bear into a squat or lunge, the motion has already been learned. There isn’t really any concrete evidence to support the method at the moment, though those using it believe that it may shorten rehab by four weeks, with the largest effect seen within the first two months. I’ve certainly found it beneficial.

My football team began their preseason in January so it gave me a reason to leave the house. I have been refereeing games and collecting footballs amongst other things just to be involved and also keep active. Another thing I would highly recommend is walking in water. I’m lucky enough to have a swimming pool and just doing a few laps in what is a controlled environment loosens everything out.

On Monday I had my first follow up with my surgeon since I had my bandages removed back in the December, and the news was good. The graft is healing well and I have developed a full range of movement in my leg, though the muscles aren’t quite as strong yet as those in my left knee which is to be expected. I’m thankfully now finished with the surgeon unless there are any complications further down the track.

It’s great news but I have been reminded in no uncertain terms that, even though I am doing very well after just 11 weeks, it takes 40 to 48 for a full recovery to be made. I’m still four to six weeks away from being able to run so until then I’ll just carry on with the strengthening work so that I’m all set.

Thanks for reading and if you’ve had any similar experiences I’d love to hear them.

You can read parts 1 and 2 of ‘Battling Back’ here and here.

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