Knee Operation Recovery: The Moment Of Truth


I was now out of the recovery room and had been wheeled back to my room. I was still unaware of what had happened in theatre but that was all about to change…

Whilst I was in and out of sleep and informing family and friends that I was out of surgery and waiting for the surgeon, there was a knock at the door and in he walked.

The moment of truth had arrived…

Half-asleep, dosed up on pain relief and knowing I wouldn’t remember most of the conversation, I decided to voice record the conversation so that I could remember what was said and let my worried family and friends know.

Not long after returning to my room. Tired and groggy from the general anaesthetic.

“Right what we’ve done is, we’ve scoped your knee and your ACL looks FINE. It felt nice and stable front to back.”

This was a huge relief for me because I know the seriousness of an ACL reconstruction, especially within football.

“There was some opening of the LCL but you did have some rotatory instability, so I have done what we said we would do and put a suture rope through the fibula head and pulled the ligaments down. So LCL and biceps femoris both felt much tighter afterwards.

I’ve also done what is called a lateral tenodesis and I have taken a strip of your IT band (iliotibial band) and put it under the LCL ligament and brought it up into an area up into the back of the knee and put a small screw in. This is all to hopefully help with the rotational instability.

I’ve ALSO had to remove a build-up of scar tissue around the LCL and biceps femoris. Fingers crossed, hopefully, 6-8 weeks in the knee brace and crutches, then out and work”.

So he had found instability in my LCL upon rotation during the examination under anaesthesia, which he was surprised about. To fix this and make it more stable, he drilled holes into the top of my fibula bone and somehow pulled my LCL and biceps femoris through those holes he had made and secured them in place with a screw that will remain in my knee.

A piece of the IT band (the long tendon that runs on the outside of the leg connecting the pelvis to the knee) was taken and put into the back of my knee, to help support and stabilise the knee on rotation.

When I signed the consent form pre-op, I had made the surgeon aware that I had experienced tingling in my toes since the last consultation. This was from the build-up of scar tissue that was pressing on my nerve, which he had to clear.

Now, this wasn’t as comforting as the news about the ACL!

My knee brace was set so that I could fully extend my knee but had limited range with flexion, to allow the ligaments to heal.

I managed to ask him about the timescale of my recovery and when I could be back playing football again…

“Sensibly, earliest I would say is February/January back to playing”.

So with a smooth recovery, I was looking at 6 MONTHS realistically. If you include the time before my operation, the length of time from injury to back playing is going to be 9 MONTHS, if all goes well!

The news didn’t really start to sink in until I had spoken with family and friends and done the customary google search of all the medical terms I had heard when I listened back to the recording.

This was whilst I continued to drift in and out of sleep for the rest of that night because of the effects of the general anaesthesia.

I managed to eat an egg sandwich and a bowl of soup around 8pm, before falling asleep again.

That was the evening of the UEFA Super Cup and I remember watching most of extra time but with only minutes left before penalties, I couldn’t fight the sleep anymore and turned the laptop off. Now if you love football, you know how good penalty shootouts can be so this shows how tired and out of it I was.

The pain was starting to take hold as the pain relief and anaesthetic wore off throughout the night.

Observations from the nurse took place every two hours so sleep was unsettled, however, I am sure it would have been unsettled regardless of the nurse doing the routine checks. The positive of the checks was that it meant more pain relief and that was exactly what was needed that first night in hospital.

The first thing I had eaten since 7:15am that morning. Sweet potato and butternut squash soup with an egg mayo sandwich and a glass of pineapple juice.

1-day post-op:

The following morning I was awake from 6am and although I was knackered, I couldn’t get back to sleep because of the pain and not being able to get comfortable.

When the new nurse on shift first visited I had many questions:

  • When can I shower?
  • Will I be able to go home today?
  • What time will that be?
  • Do you know how long the bandage has to stay on?

The nurse was great and answered all of my questions whilst taking my blood pressure and heart rate for the umpteenth time.

I would be going home that day but at what time exactly she wasn’t sure because I still had to:

  • Speak with the anaesthetist about what pain relief I could take
  • Then be administered that pain relief from the pharmacist
  • Speak with the physio and go through exercises to get my knee moving again
  • Go through my discharge notes with the nurse who was in charge of gathering all of the above information

I couldn’t be guaranteed a time because I wasn’t the only person on the ward and other people had the same idea as me- getting home.

Around lunchtime, I received my discharge notes and was told I was able to leave the hospital and return home. I was picked up by my brother, who had already set off from Croydon in the hope that by the time he had arrived, I could leave.

Sat in the back of his car with my leg propped up on 4 or 5 pillows was very uncomfortable and the 2-hour drive home felt like it took an age.

Arriving home to my two boys and partner was when it dawned on me that the road to recovery started here.

The customary post-operation picture the following day

The first couple of weeks post-surgery

I was told to do as little as possible on my feet for the first two weeks.

Sleep was a struggle and I couldn’t get comfortable with the brace on and because I had to sleep on my back. I would wake up with my knee aching and sore every couple of hours with pain relief needed.

I had been given paracetamol, ibuprofen and for the first 48 hours, I was given ‘oxycodone‘. I was only given two days’ worth of the oxycodone because it can become addictive.

The pain during the day was more manageable and I found the day easier to deal with than the nights for the first few weeks.

With sleep being a struggle and my leg propped up on 3 pillows throughout the day and night, it was becoming frustrating having to stack them under my leg every time I got up to go to the toilet or to go downstairs.

So I had a look online to see if there was a pillow I could buy that is for elevating the leg and more practical than 3 pillows.

I found one on Amazon and decided to order it. I thought it would be worth it because for at least the next 6 weeks I would be sleeping and sitting with my leg elevated.

The LightEase memory foam pillow I had purchased from Amazon was a game changer for comfort

The physio at the hospital had given me 3 exercises to do daily with the brace on.

The three exercises were incredibly simple but the first couple of days I struggled because I couldn’t contract my quadricep.

They were:

  • Static quadricep contractions
  • Straight leg raise
  • Knee flexion. Sat on the bed and sliding my heel as close to my bum as possible (not very far)

All of these exercises allowed me to get my knee moving again which is vital in the recovery for the knee.

Prior to surgery, I would have been able to do these exercises with ease. However, with a very swollen, sore and traumatised knee added to the equation, they were extremely tough. I was told to expect pain with these exercises but to continue with them because they were the start of retraining and strengthening the muscles in my quadriceps.

As the days passed, the exercises got easier. The first week, I wasn’t able to do the straight leg raise sitting down so I had to do these stood up.

I was also quite cautious and nervous doing the exercises because although I was told they were going to improve my chances of recovery, I also didn’t want to do any damage and put the knee through a range of motion it wasn’t ready for yet, which could result in a setback or the knee not healing how it should do.

10 days post-surgery

Before leaving the hospital I was told I would have to return to the hospital on day 10 to have the staples removed from the knee.

I was under strict orders that I wasn’t allowed to drive (I wouldn’t have been able to if I wanted to anyway) so I had to rely on my Dad once again to take me to the hospital in Eastleigh to have them removed.

Luckily it fell on a Saturday so my Dad was available.

Up until this point, I hadn’t left the house. My days were spent icing and keeping the leg elevated in bed whilst I kept myself busy by writing blog posts and getting the website and content ready to go live.

The journey there was a lot more comfortable than the journey the day I left the hospital.

I had been told to keep the plasters from the operation on and to try and refrain from removing them to limit the risk of infection. So I hadn’t seen the wound yet and I had no idea how big it was or what it looked like.

The only thing I knew was that it was big because the anaesthetist had told me when he checked on me the morning after the op, that he was “shocked at the size of the incision” they had to make.

I was excited to finally see it!

After a few moments of waiting, I was called into the room. As I sat on the bed and removed my brace I couldn’t wait for the nurse to remove the plaster and reveal what lied beneath.

What my eyes saw when she removed the plaster was pretty incredible. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but the size of the wound was astonishing.

This was the wound 10 days after the LCL reconstruction with the staples still in

I had never had staples before so I was unaware of how they were removed. The nurse used a very clever little tool to remove all 22 of the staples from the LCL reconstruction incision and the 5 staples from the 3 keyhole incisions.

This was painless but this was also when I first realised the numbness I still had around the incision and my knee.

The nurse said the numbness can wear off after a few weeks but can also be permanent because of the nerves that have been severed when making the incision.

New plasters were put on for a few more days to ensure it was fully healed to limit the risk of infection.

Before leaving, the nurse gave me a waterproof leg cover to wear in the shower. Up until this point, I had been showering sat down with one leg in the bath and the bad leg over the edge of the bath so that the brace and my knee didn’t get wet.

Until the wound was healed, I had to keep it dry. So this cover meant that I could have a normal shower for the first time in 10 days!!

Once the staples were removed, I could see that the wound had healed really well.

I received a letter from the secretary of the specialist a week after the operation, with a date for my follow-up appointment to see how the knee was healing. The appointment is for the end of September which falls between 6 and 7 weeks post-op.

If you have read my last blog post, you will know that I would be in the brace for 6-8 weeks. So I am hoping that in this appointment I will receive positive news and be able to remove the brace and get back to walking unaided.

The knee itself is still very swollen and puffy even though I spend my whole day icing it and having it elevated. This will help with reducing the swelling. I am currently using a Game Ready ice machine which is a brilliant piece of kit that compresses and ices the affected area at the same time.

Getting around the house is getting easier now and the pain in the knee is on and off. During the day it is a lot better but I still wake in the night with the back of the knee throbbing and have to take pain relief to try and ease the pain.

I have spent many hours sat up in bed in the middle of the night because I am unable to fall back asleep.

As I write this post, I am a few days away from seeing the specialist for my follow-up appointment. I am hoping for some positive news and that the knee is healing well so I am able to take the brace off. However, I am aware that this may not be the case and that he may want me walking without a limp and unaided before the brace can come off- both of which I am still unable to do!

I will provide an update for you all next week after the appointment but if you’re not already, then please remember to follow me on Instagram @flyontheball_ to get daily updates and to see the outcome of my appointment with the specialist.

4 thoughts on “Knee Operation Recovery: The Moment Of Truth

  1. Enjoyed reading this one Wynts, took me back to when I endured the same process. Sleepless nights and slowly wondering where your leg muscles have gone!! It’ll all be worth it in the end, I have the same screw you have had implanted that sticks out to the side of my knee to remind me every day how incredible science is that I’m even able to compete at any level. You will be the same mate and you’ll be flying in no time!

    Enjoying each post mate, looking forward to the next!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thankyou Parts. I appreciate you reading and following it all. Oh the chicken leg is in full flow, my knee is bigger than my quad now!

      Thanks again and I’ll defo be in touch with you soon to catch up and share rehab stories! Take care my friend


  2. Alex great to read your Fly on the wall blog, it’s been very interesting as I have followed your career and how you’ve progressed over the years. Hopefully you have full recovery and are back playing soon. Give my regards to Clifton and Melonie, from Peter from ‘Down Under’ have seen them for sometime.

    Liked by 1 person

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