Tag Archives: knee recovery

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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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.

Weight Training – June 5th and 9th

Looking back at my posts I realized that I missed a workout session. Yikes!

June 5th Lifts, Bro
Standard leg warm-ups and stretches. Front squats 3×5, snatch grip deadlifts 3×5, lunges 3×5 and my hip exercises.

June 9th Lifts, Bro
Standard leg warm-ups, deadlifts 5×5, DB rows 3×5, Upright rows 3×5, pull-ups (3) and dips (7) followed by my hip exercises.

Gimme a Finisher, Bro
It feels like I’m settling into my weekly routine. I like the way my body feels after weight training a lot more than I do after jiu-jitsu practice. Well that makes sense cause I’m not sparring in class, not very long nor at full intensity. But I really enjoy the feeling of being tired the next day from lifting. On a day I don’t feel tired it seems like I have heaps of energy just pouring out of me, which usually happens on a jiu-jitsu day and makes sitting on the sidelines far more worse than it is.

For the most part, I’m really have to say is that my right leg feels strong. It doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t bother me. My flexiblity is slowly coming back though it’s not at pre-injury levels yet. Surprisingly my right leg feels better than my left leg. Before I had surgery I casually mentioned that my left knee was bothering me as well – nowhere near as bad as my right knee at that time – but after two years of my right leg taking center stage I’m finding that my left leg is starting to remind me of its current condition. Nothing really to worry about, just something to keep an eye on.

Other than that, I’m feel amazing. I wonder how much better I’ll feel with a couple more weeks of front squats and lunges under my belt.

Jiu-jitsu Training – May 31st

Yesterday we learned a confusing spider guard sweep to use if top-guard tries to stand-up pass. Then we learned a not-so-confusing sliding knee pass that I really liked and plan on using. And finally we learned an utterly confusing z-guard pass.

I wanted to write out the z-guard pass and post it for my benefit, give it some sort of clarification as writing about a technique tends to do that for me. Originally, I had just my notes on the pass but it was too vague to understand. I added tons more detail in the hopes of making it read better, but then it became far too complicated that if you read it you’d need a cipher to decode it.

So instead I’ll just write about my first sparring session.

So How’d Class Go?
It really wasn’t a sparring session, more like positional drilling at full resistance for 6 minutes. Start from guard, top-guard passes gets to side-control: winner. Bottom-guard sweeps, submits, or stands up: winner. Loser leaves, winner stays as bottom-guard, and new top-guard comes in, re-start.

I paired up with Brent, we went slow. I almost passed his guard but he stood up. I leave.

I immediately went to an open spot and paired up with a three stripe white belt. He complained of having a sore neck but stayed in. We went slow, I almost passed again but he spazzed out and tried for a single leg during a scramble. I dropped my weight on him, triangled the arm hooked around my leg attempting the single leg, rolled forward and found myself on the better-end of a crucifix. I shrimped out to neck crank him, remembered that he had a bad neck and submitted him with a collar choke. I stay in.

Next up was a purple belt I knew as a blue when I first joined Paraestra. Actually, he became a blue belt a couple of months after I joined Paraestra. Two years later, he’s a purple. We went slow and I don’t know how much trouble I gave him stopping his passes but when he gave me a ton of space, I stood up. I stay in.

Finally, a rather large white belt comes in. Tomari-sensei immediately voices his concern, I tell him I’m good. We’re gonna go slow and I look the white belt dead in the eye when I say it. He nods. We start off and he uses big man strength to pass my guard. Fact was I was giving him a hard time passing on my left side when he switched over to go to my right side (right leg is the post-surgery leg) I dropped my leg to give him a clear path to pass.

On his way to secure side control I bumped – out of habit, I didn’t need to cause I had lots of space – and spun out to escape. He was so surprised that he kinda stalled getting back on track and seemed apprehensive to engage again. So I pulled him in butterfly guard. He went into gorilla pass mode and I let him have the pass after pushing against his shoulder and shrimping away to make him “earn” the pass. I leave with a big goofy grin on my face.

Finishing Thoughts
I felt incredibly happy to roll again even if it was limited. I did much better that I thought I would have. And even better than that my right leg is feeling quite outstandingly well.

If there’s more positional sparring drills I’m definitely heading in. I think that will improve my movement, slowly work up my comfort level especially with my knee, and help my reaction time and grappling skillset in a much safer manner than sparring straight out. Plus I’m staying away from spazzy big guys for as long as possible.

When I can stay in for the entire round of positional sparring that’ll be the time I step up to full sparring.