Thursday, October 11, 2007

Knee Injury: I thought the ACL was a group of liberal lawyers?

No, that is the ACLU.

I don't know much about them, but thanks to an unfortunate moment in the Spring of '07, I have learned a lot about the ACL, as in, Anterior Cruciate Ligament, a part of the interior of the knee that helps stabilize movement during sports, running, walking, etc. This is a journey into the realm of self education, treatment, and self awareness of the limitations of the medical industry in evaluating this type of injury for a practiced athlete. It is my journey, and it is not over yet.

Time log...early Spring, 2007: I am sure that anyone with an awareness of sports has heard of an ACL injury. Very common in football, soccer, skiing, etc, it usually happens when the knee joint is stressed beyond the limits of the ligament's tensile strength and a full or partial tearing of the ACL results. Once torn, the ACL has a very poor record of healing on its own. It seems that the synovial fluid that encapsulates the knee joint has very little blood flow and consequently, very slow healing abilities. Also, the fibrous nature of the ligament tends to shred and breakdown till little connection from bone to bone is left.

That leads to a loss of stability that can limit the sporting activity of the injured person and, unless repaired can lead to increased stress on the cartilage (meniscus)and other parts of the knee. Can you say, arthritis?

The repair is a pretty involved process requiring surgery and a long healing process to follow. Figure 6 months of sports related downtime and one year to full strength with no guarantee against surgery related issues such as lingering knee pain, reduced flexibility, etc. Not a rosy picture.

I knew none of this while I was laying on the practice mat a few minutes after the injury happened. I just knew anytime your knee pops and it hurts, that is not good. The injury happened during some practice of Judo techniques. I was caught up in a poorly executed hip throw that levered off my knee instead of higher up on the thigh/hip. My foot stuck on the mat and I was forced over to the floor. I had no tremendous pain or swelling immediately afterwards. Remember this point. My knee felt a bit loose and did not like being pivoted on or really any quick movement, so I was walking around with a limp, but I was walking.

Off to the local sports orthopedic center, but not before I spent a bunch of time on Google reading about knee injuries. I was not textbook for an ACL injury, I learned. I had no serious pain or swelling post injury, I had no real instability (knee giving out or buckling), or any clicking or 'catching' during knee movement that would point to ACL and/or Meniscus (the cartilage 'socket' that the knee uses as a cushion). I figured a ligament strain, but what did I know.

Turns out maybe I knew a lot, but I did not know that yet and I would not know that for a while.

Next the doc.

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