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Recovering from traumatic injury/surgery

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Last Feb I took a 40 foot fall when a block came off while I was 3rd-classing back to the car at Smith. Most of the damage was on my knees. My R knee had a torn ACL, partially torn MCL, tibial plateau fracture to name the worst of it. My L knee had torn PCL, fibula head fracture, 3"x8" laceration into the interior knee joint cavity that also chipped my patella bone and shredded part of the patellar tendon.

I was in a wheel chair for 6 weeks, on crutches for another 9 weeks (non-weight bearing on R leg), then had ACL surgery on R knee two week before the crutches came off.

Since ACL surgery and my slow return to activity I have been really fortunate to recover faster and better than anyone expected. Obviously all injuries are different and not all factors are in our control but I wanted to point out some things that I think helped to accelerate the healing and reconditioning process so that others can benefit.

Obvious things that are probably out of your control but worth pointing out for perspective...

1. Being really well conditioned pre-accident (middle of Max Strength Base training from TftNA).

2. Having been through long-term injuries before allowed me to mentally deal with the process better.

3. Having a shit-ton of family, friends, and most importantly a wife who took me to appointments, cooked me good food, and kept me psyched.

4. Happening to have a really good surgeon available when I came to the ER who did my ACL repair later on too.

5. Having time-off from work to focus on rehab and fitness.


Things that were within my control...

1. Getting a really good PT who has worked with lots athletes and has tons of experience with knees, Ellie Meyerowitz at Rebound PT in Bend. Compared to other friends who had also had ACL surgery in the last few years I was on a much more intense and proactive program.

2. Working with a strength coach to plan an upper body strength training program that I was able to implement in my wheel chair at home so that I could continue to progress in some way (set huge hangboard PRs and got way stronger in the shoulders). However, this was most beneficial because I was able to super-set these exercises with my early PT. Doing pull-ups, dips, etc. are big muscle exercises that have been shown to release Human Growth Hormone (HGH). This is why climbers will super-set dead-lifts with hangboard sessions to release HGH that then helps their smaller finger muscles respond better. I was flipping it and doing big upper-body muscles to benefit doing small exercises in my legs.

3. Finding a LMT. I was lucky enough to befriend our neighbor Mary as she was starting massage school. She used me for practice and multiple school case studies. I had weekly deep tissue massages for several months.

4. Diet was super high quality and I took a light protein supplement too. I ate more than I ever had as an adult and only put on 5 lbs.

5. Pool workouts rehabbed my movement. I was cleared to move in the pool as long as my feet hit on the bottom (not swim or aqua jog). I practiced A/B/C skips and other running specific drills. This was really helpful to retrain my muscle movement in a non-impact environment while also controlling inflammation with water pressure. When I was starting to do plyometric movement at PT again I was way ahead of the curve because of this.

6. Maxing out my workout time with aerobic activity rebuilt my aerobic system and increased circulation which is a limiting factor with any healing process. I was cleared to start with 10 min of biking on the stationary bike and add 5 min every 48 hrs if not painful. Within 2 months I was doing 2+ hrs on the stationary bike (thank god for entertaining podcasts), plus 30-45 min of pool drills, plus over 2 hrs of PT exercises every day.


1. Able to start running 4.5 months post-ACL-op (faster than normal ACL repair despite massive leg atrophy from 15 weeks non-weightbearing). Six months post-op able to run 10 miles comfortably.

2. Climbed numerous 5.10 cracks, started taking lead falls again, climbed Royal Arches in Yosemite last week in under 5 hrs (not super impressive but also not too bad given that we pitched everything out).

3. Climbed Broken Top with the wife and friend in September 4 months post-op, was the fittest uphill walker of the three (YESSS!).

After-note: was told by my surgeon after my ACL surgery that there was a good chance I could never run more than a couple miles or do long hikes again, so this is definitely a success.


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So glad you have such a great outcome! I went through a hamstring avulsion, surgical repair, and recovery last year so I can empathize to a small degree - your fate was worse - and agree with the points you've made regarding luck and recovery. In my case, I would add two points to the luck category: having good health insurance and being in an urban area with access to top medical care that allowed me to be diagnosed and then treated by a set of care providers who knew how to quickly diagnose and treat a relatively rare injury. I learned from an online group of people across the world with similar injuries that many are not so lucky.

But enough about me. I hope you continue your upward trend!

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Good to hear about your recovery and thanks for writing this up, sounds like you took the recovery seriously and it payed off. I had my appendix removed recently, which I know is nothing like what you experienced, but it was the first time I've really been physically incapable of doing things, and it sucks. Lost 10 lbs after the surgery and wasn't able to lift more than 15 lbs or use my core for a month, which destroyed my climbing/skiing training routine, and probably my early season climbing plans. Just starting to exercise now and I've lost a lot of my strength and stamina. 

Reading your post makes me think I should have been more proactive during my recovery rather than going back to work too soon and being a lazy asshole/eating like crap...

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