Knee Operation Recovery: The Diagnosis

PART 1

If you follow me on any of my social media platforms, you will be aware of the injury I am currently dealing with. I want to keep you all updated on my recovery but with Fly On The Ball going live after the injury, it is impossible to fit everything that has happened into this 1 post.


On the evening of the 18th of May 2021, I was playing for Eastleigh FC away at Aldershot Town FC. It was the first game that home fans were allowed back into the stadium following the pandemic.

I had scored in the first half but we were drawing 1-1 at the time disaster struck midway through the second half…


The tackle I made where my knee problem began. Image by Tom Mulholland

KLUNK!

The noise was accompanied by a sickening pain. I lay there on the ground clutching my right knee, absolutely devastated.

Only moments earlier I had made a slide tackle, hooking the ball away and upon getting back to my feet noticed I had a mild pain over my knee which I put down to a dead leg.

After limping back into position for a goal kick, I received the ball, controlled it and pulled my leg back to play a pass but as soon as the leg flexed, an incredible pain shot through my knee with a loud klunk’ noise.

Things had started so well with me getting on the scoresheet. Image by Tom Mulholland

Not long back from an injury lay-off due to complications of concussion, I was now looking at another period of time out.

As I limped off of the pitch with the help of the physio, I couldn’t believe what had just happened.

Sat on the bench, my head was all over the place with thoughts racing through my mind. Reassurances from the coaching staff and players on the bench went over my head and all I kept thinking was…

‘My contract is up in only 2 weeks’ time!’

Struggling to put any weight through the leg, I was put into a knee brace and handed a pair of crutches to protect the knee from any further damage being done.

I had to be dropped home by a teammate because I was unable to drive (leaving my car at the stadium where it remained until my Dad was able to pick it up a few days later after work).

Over the next 48 hours, the pain was unbearable at times, even with pain relief.

Within those couple of days, I had undergone an MRI scan in London and was now awaiting my results. The days after the scan felt like weeks, whilst I waited impatiently.

The knee hadn’t swollen up as badly as anticipated and this gave me a glimmer of hope with regards to the diagnosis.

That hope was soon dashed.

My knee a few days after the injury. A small amount of swelling was present.


1 Week Post-injury

The results had come back and it was confirmed that I had:

  • A complete tear of the LCL (lateral collateral ligament) and biceps femoris muscle (hamstring) at the fibula head
  • A grade 2 partial tear of the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament)
  • A grade 1 MCL along with bone bruising 


So in simpler terms:

  • The ligament on the outside of the knee and one of the three structures of the hamstring, meet and attach at the top of the fibula. Where they join, I had a complete tear meaning there was nothing holding the two ligaments and the bone together.
  • The ACL is in the middle of the knee and I had a partial tear which meant it was intact but there was significant damage without it rupturing.
  • The MCL is on the inside of the knee and that had minor damage and I had only tweaked a few fibres with no tear present.
  • Bone bruising comes from a traumatic blow so that was the result of all of the above being damaged and the tackle.

With the injuries I had suffered, I was under no illusion of the seriousness of the situation I found myself in. I knew I would be looking at an operation to repair the damage and going through a long rehabilitation programme.

How could such an innocuous injury be so shattering?

Shock, disappointment and frustration were my feelings in the first few weeks after the injury and I just wanted to get on with my recovery and work towards coming back.

However, my initial worries about my contract were quickly eased with the club and manager reassuring me that they would take care of me through my recovery process regardless of timescale. I was extremely grateful for this gesture because they could have easily allowed my contract to run down and part ways with me- especially as I wasn’t going to be available to play anytime soon!

3 Weeks Post-injury

The club arranged for me to see a knee specialist who would also perform the operation if needed. When I met with him, we went through the scan. When assessing my knee, he couldn’t see what the scan reported so he sent me for another MRI so he could have another look.

However, this scan was scheduled for 3 weeks later!

He said this new scan would show up things a lot clearer because the swelling and blood that would have been present in the first scan, would now have cleared.

At this point, I was becoming worried about the lack of progress that was being made with my diagnosis and potential operation. The specialist made me aware that he doesn’t go in and operate on a knee unless it is within 48 hours of the injury occurring, or after the 6 week mark, so we weren’t losing any time in terms of operating on the knee.

His reason for this was because when he had operated between that timeframe before, the knee was full of swelling and ‘was a messy knee’ making the operation trickier. We are talking about a highly-skilled, vastly experienced knee surgeon who knows what they are talking about.

Although I had full trust in the specialist, I spent a lot of time overthinking the injury because I felt like I wasn’t any closer to finding out what was wrong. When you are sat at home, unable to do anything other than rest and ice, it leaves a lot of time to sit there and overthink.

My knee not long after I had received my results from my first scan, with a lot more swelling present.

6 Weeks Post-injury

I underwent the MRI scan and had a consultation the following day to go through the results. Unfortunately, the scan had come back with the same results, only the problems were a lot more clearer in this latest scan.

In our first meeting, the ACL was an area of confusion because he couldn’t clearly see what the first radiologist had seen due to the swelling in my knee. But as soon as he started showing me the second scan, it was the first thing I saw on his screen and even I, who has no medical training, could see it didn’t look how it should do.

So it was agreed that I would be pencilled in for the 28th of July to have the operation.

It was decided that I would go in for an examination under anaesthetic (EUA) so that he could have one last look at the knee and see how it felt before any major work was done. This would include some keyhole surgery to have a closer look at the ACL. Any work on my knee that needed doing would be completed there and then, which meant I would only know the definite timescale once I had awoken from the operation.

Although things missed on scans can add time to a recovery, I was going to go into surgery completely unaware of the duration of time I would miss. I had been on google daily, self-diagnosing so I could get my head around potential outcomes but the answers I found were vague and ranged from 3 months to a year.

Collecting my award for goal of the season with my crutches and knee brace. Image by Graham Scambler

9 Weeks Post-injury

The next 3 weeks were full of uncertainty.

In the week leading up to the operation, it was postponed and I was unable to go under the knife and begin the road to recovery.  This was extremely frustrating because I knew that whatever happened in theatre, come the morning of the 29th of July, I would know what my recovery looked like time-wise and what I was dealing with.

Although frustrated and desperate, I had to trust that it would all work out.

I know that I will come out of this period a stronger person and that there will be many positives to come from this journey.

One positive that I have already got so far, is that I am here writing these posts and sharing my experiences so that you can discover what it can be like on the road to recovery.

Without this injury, I may not have decided to commit to this blog and I would not have started this journey with you all. I always try and find the positives in a negative situation and I have learnt over the years that if you look hard enough, you’ll always find one.

“I’m calling about your knee arthroscopy. We have booked you in for the 11th of August..”

10 Weeks Post-injury

Only a few days after the disappointment of my operation being postponed, the 27th of July, I received a phone call to let me know that it had been rescheduled for the afternoon of the 11th of August.

The operation was to be done at a hospital in Eastleigh.

I was incredibly relieved as I hung up the phone, with the beginning of the road to recovery in sight.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t frustrated with the whole situation so far, with the postponement only adding to that frustration. The last 10 weeks had been full of uncertainty and constant worry but with this news, I could finally see the beginning of my recovery post-op.

If you find yourself struggling with an injury and want to talk or ask a question, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Remember to subscribe to the blog so you can be notified whenever a new post is released. Part 2 and 3 will be out during the week and you won’t want to miss them!


Follow me on Instagram @flyontheball_ where you can get daily updates of my journey to full fitness and everything else related to the blog.

2 thoughts on “Knee Operation Recovery: The Diagnosis

  1. I imagine it must of been very depressing having to deal with an injury so serious, as a professional athlete!

    Your optimism though is nice to read. You always look at the positives in a almost impossible situation with your leg. Time is the only thing stopping you.

    Ps* do footballers eat McDonald’s?

    Like

    1. It is never easy having to deal with injuries and it can be very lonely regardless of the severity. This is when a good support network can be great- something I will focus on soon.

      With regards to your question lol, yes footballers do eat mcdonalds but only at the right times and in moderation. We are professional athletes but also human beings!!!

      Like

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