Tag Archives: knee injuries

Happy Re-construction Day, Right Knee!

Knee 2.0

Two years ago today I had ACL re-construction surgery on my right knee. In addition I also had my medial meniscus sutured. My surgery was an autograph (donor tissue was me, not a cadaver) of the semitendinosus (hamstring) tendon in my right leg.

Since then I’ve had over eight months of physical therapy and rehab (using the hamstring has donor tissue for the surgery has a longer recovery time than the patella-donor-type surgery plus I really didn’t want to rush), six months of prehab (injury preventative exercises) and over seven months of strength training before I started up jiu-jitsu again. Oh, I forgot to mention I even had a second surgery on my knee to remove the screws and anchors that held my “new” ACL in place while everything healed up neat and tidy.

Bionic Man for 1.7 years

Damn, my knee has come a long way.

Over the course of my two year journey I’ve picked up a lot of things, gained a great deal of experience and information in regards to knee injuries, rehab and prehab exercises, lower body – especially the posterior chain – strength training, leg mobility and flexibility, and soft tissue work, which of course includes massages. It’s led me to rediscover my passion for learning all about the human body and what it’s capable of (I was studying to be a paramedic before I found out I was coming to Japan, while I almost finished the program, I never knew how much I enjoyed learning about biology and human physiology until then).

Out of everything, there are a few important lessons I would have never received if I never got injured in the first place.

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On Knowing When to Walk Away from Jiujitsu

There’s a saying that a black belt is just a white belt that didn’t stop when things got difficult and just kept on training. I’m finding it difficult to find inspiration in that.

Lately, training in jiu-jitsu is frustrating and all I have to show for my efforts is just me getting more hurt.

Yesterday I was paired up with a large, dumpy blue belt to drill sweeps with. He asked if I could stand up so he could work on Dela Riva sweeps. When the fairly simple sweep didn’t work as well as he wanted it to he proceeded to drive his hips into the side of my thrice-injured twice-surgery knee like he was jumping into closed guard.

Knowing that the crap was going to hit the fan I went down to the mat as quickly as possible in the hopes that he’d ease up and let go. Nah, instead, he climbs up further on my leg and pushed his weight down on the follow through.

That’s when I heard the pop.

I yelled at him to get off of me and immediately went to R.I.C.E. my knee. This freaked everyone in the class who’s known about my surgery and my knee, especially Tomari-sensei.

Dumpy offered a half-hearted apology before moving over to the side to do push-ups.

I can walk. I can bend my knee. I still have the same range of motion as previous to this. I can support weight on my right leg.

However, my knee doesn’t feel the same. It feels off. There is a slight dull uncomfortable pain at certain angles, and even though the pain doesn’t linger it’s a reminder of all the times my mobility was hindered because of my injuries and especially of my time after surgery.

As much as I adore jiu-jitsu I’m more appreciative of having the ability to move and walk around under my own power as well as being able to sit cross-legged comfortably.

Ever since I’ve come back to training jiu-jitsu it hasn’t been fun and that perhaps is the strongest indication something is amiss. Right now, it’d be easy to walk away and feel no regrets about leaving. Seriously.

Some Info on Knee Injury Prevention and Recovery

My friend Brent “popped” his knee last night during practice. I wasn’t there personally but heard about it from him. He got it checked out and there was some MCL damage. Nothing serious, yet in light of it I thought it best to throw out some basic tips and warning signs to watch out for.

Be Strong
The most pro-active step to ensure that injuries hardly occur is to focus on strength. Now this may fly against the “strength isn’t necessary to succeed in jiu-jitsu” mentality, but proper strength does have its benefits.

Let’s focus on knee injuries for now.

Strengthening all the major muscle groups, and supporting muscles and tissues will lower the chances of an injury. Furthermore, weight training should be applied in an intelligent manner, never blindly. This means that rushing into a gym to do three sets of leg presses till failure or going out running to make gains isn’t the best way of approaching strength.

Exercises should not be solely be quad-dominant, but should especially target the posterior chain as well. The posterior chain includes the hamstrings, glutes (hips) and lower back, and is directly tied to the knee providing support and stablization. The squat and the deadlift are excellent posterior chain exercises.

Other posterior chain exercises include pull-throughs, good mornings and ham-glute raises. Having any or, better still, all of these exercises in your workout routine would be a good step in guarding against knee injuries.

Be Healthy
A history of injuries can be viewed as a way to prevent them as it is a very good indicator of potential future occurrances. Think about it, an injury means an inability to perform at 100%, and any machismo attitude of “training through an injury” is traumatic and damaging in the long run.

There are instances of injuries caused by direct impact – two people collide with great force leaving one person with a torn tendon or a broken bone – however most cases are due to wear and tear. The muscles and tissues are not strong and healthy enough to perform at the desired level, so something gives. An injury should be given ample time to heal and allowing the body to completely recover is very important.

Massages and soft tissue work with either a foam roller or tennis balls are other ways to improve the quality of muscles and overall tissue health. Ideally, these can be done after a workout or any activity for the best results possible and to speed recovery although just taking the time to include enough rest and recover will prolong the amount of time we dedicate to training or to the active things we enjoy.

And in the case of jiu-jitsu, let’s hope that it’s lifelong.