With the recovery underway, all I could do was my simple range of movements, keep the leg elevated and rest the knee as much as possible until my follow-up appointment with the specialist at the 6-week mark.
4 weeks post-surgery
I was able to perform the exercises I had been given with ease and had increased the reps from 10 to 15 then to 20.
The wound had fully healed and looked great.
I was also in contact with many fellow professionals who have been through similar knee injuries and I found great comfort in talking with them and hearing their stories. Some of these players are people I had only come across in games over the years and never spoken to before.
This is something that might not have been possible had I not decided to put it out on social media that I was suffering from this injury. I could have kept it all bottled up and went about my recovery and the task ahead in silence, but I wanted to be open and show everyone what we can face on the journey.
The football community is full of brilliant people who are always looking out for each other. It is ruthless and can be a lonely journey at times but it is in times like this, that you appreciate teammates and realise the mutual respect amongst players in the football world.
With my staples out and the boys playing at home on the weekend, my Dad and I went down to Eastleigh to watch the game against Kings Lynn Town. This was the first time, other than having my staples out, that I had left the house to go somewhere. The boys put in a great shift and were unlucky to draw the game but it was great to see everyone and catch up with teammates, club staff and the fans.
It also gave me an opportunity to see one of the club’s doctors and the club physio. I hadn’t been able to see either since the operation due to the surgeon’s orders of staying off of my feet, the distance I live from the ground and not being able to drive. They were both happy with how it looked and weren’t surprised or worried about the swelling.
My eldest son had his first day at ‘big school’ and I couldn’t miss that for anything. Getting to the school was a struggle but I eventually made it to see him begin his exciting new adventure.
It was another ‘proud Dad moment’ seeing him dressed in his school uniform all grown up. The fact that he was so excited to start made me even more glad that I had somehow managed to be there.
5 weeks post-surgery
My birthday fell on the 5-week mark and I am not one for big celebrations, preferring to spend it with family and close ones with a happy birthday song the wildest it ever gets. With it falling on a Wednesday and my inability to drive and go out on my feet for too long, it was spent at home in bed icing my knee. So it made no difference to me- boring right!
Some dinner with the family followed by a lovely homemade cake was the perfect way to spend the day.
I had begun using a Compex machine that I had borrowed from my brother, to help speed up the recovery.
The Compex is a muscle stimulating device that helps contract the muscles through electrical pulses. For me, the benefits of using this are that it improves the blood flow to help the healing, whilst also helping restore some of the strength.
6 weeks post-surgery
My appointment was scheduled for 10:45am on the 27th of September. With no one being able to take me and still not being able to drive, train was the only option.
I set off from my house at 6:30am to get a bus to my local train station. I had some problems towards the end of the journey but I was able to meet the physio, who was coming to the appointment with me.
I always prefer having someone from the medical department present because I always leave the hospital and think that I haven’t asked the right questions. So with the physio present, it meant that the correct medical questions would be asked and it was also a second set of ears.
Sitting in reception, it felt like only yesterday that I had been sat there on the day of my operation.
When we were in the room with the specialist, he began looking at my knee on the hospital bed.
He was happy with how it looked and said that it felt good when he put it through movements. Where there was a slackness and an opening in my knee before with certain movements, there was nothing now.
This means that the ligaments are healing as intended.
The specialist was also pleased with the amount of swelling, especially considering that my knee had been immobilised for the last 7 weeks. Although there was a lot of muscle waste in the quadricep from the immobilisation, he said that it would be back before I knew it.
It was pointed out that I had “a lot of hanging” at the back of the knee which meant that when he placed his hand under my heel and I relaxed my leg, the knee remained fixed in the position it had been immobilised in. Normally the back of the knee would be in contact with the bed or at least close to it, but mine was stiff after the period of immobilisation and the work done to my hamstring.
I have been sitting in bed with the pillow under my knee, I now have to take it away for periods so that I can reduce the gap. Putting a pillow or towel under my heel and letting my leg almost suspend over thin air, will slowly allow the structures at the back of the knee to loosen and return to its natural position.
The specialist also gave me another variation…
Sitting on the edge of a bed or a chair with my legs hanging off, the physio will gently push my heel towards the bed to work the range slowly.
When this was first done I almost jumped off of the bed because of the tightness across the knee cap.
My range was already at nearly 80% which was impressive, so hopefully I can slowly start to improve the range of the knee on flexion and extension.
I will start to get a little bit of gentle massage around the soft tissue on the outside of my knee which will help the swelling and the build-up of scar tissue. The physio will also put it through some gentle ranges of movements (mobilisation).
So with this good news, the plan of action for the foreseeable future was:
- Get my range of motion back first of all
- I HAVE to get my knee into full extension before I can begin to strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee
- Begin activating my core muscles
I need to do lower body activation as well. I already do a lot of activation in my prehab before training so I will start those again but without a band to start with.
It was explained to me how important my core is in my recovery. It will help with balance, the ability to stabilise the knee and with a strong core, I won’t have to concentrate on stabilising the knee during exercise as much.
I would be staying in the brace for the time being but parting with the crutches once I have regained the ability to weight-bear through the knee. The brace has now been opened up so that I can get more range through extension.
7 weeks on crutches and with the knee immobilised means it will take a little while for me to be able to fully weight-bear through it.
Most of this early work will be done at home. As the rehab steps up, I will begin working at the training ground more often and getting back in and around the boys.
The numbness is still present and it is something I’m expecting to take a while to go away but I am aware it may never go back to normal.
I was warned that I might lose 5-10% of range with the knee but was assured that it won’t affect my game.
The specialist also said that regardless of the surgery, there was no guarantee that I won’t go back to football and my knee won’t have a psychological and physical impact on me. What he meant was, that I WILL have doubts about the knee and I WILL want to protect the knee when going in for tackles and landing etc.
I know I will have moments where I think my knee isn’t quite ready for the next step. That is when I will have to trust the expertise and experience of the surgeon and my club physio.
There are going to be many mental barriers I will have to overcome throughout this recovery. I know they won’t be easy but as my confidence in the knee comes back, the easier I hope I will find it.
Before the end of the appointment, something was said that stuck with me. I’m not quite sure why it stuck with me because I was under no illusions as to the size of this challenge.
All that he said was, “the hard work starts now”.
This is going to be a tough journey and I know this but this was the first time I had heard it from someone within the medical world, which is why it may have struck home differently this time.
Just as we wrapped the appointment up, I asked about driving to which he said I could. This is great because it gives me some dependence back, whilst also allowing me to help provide for my family.
The vast majority of the last 7 weeks have been spent at home, in my bedroom trying my best to look after my knee. I have missed being able to do the simple and often underappreciated things like going for a walk, driving and most importantly being a Dad. Although I have been present, there has obviously been a limit to what I have been able to do.
With this news, I am now looking forwards to being more present and available to the boys. I won’t be able to charge around after them but at least I can now start to do more than has been possible in the last 7 weeks.
I know I am a long way off of doing everything I want to be doing but at least my recovery is going in the right direction!
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