Recovering from traumatic injury/surgery

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  • #15042

    Last Feb I took a 40 foot fall when a block came off while I was 3rd-classing back to the car after rock climbing. 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. I posted on here a couple times to get some perspective and ideas which was really helpful so I wanted to summarize things that I think helped to accelerate the healing and reconditioning process so that others can benefit. Obviously all injuries are different and not all factors are in our control so I’ll try to keep it general and helpful.

    Obvious things that are probably out of your control once hurt but worth pointing out for perspective…

    1. Being really well conditioned pre-accident (middle of Max Strength Base training from TftNA with many season of aerobic and strnegth training under my belt).

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

    3. Having a 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. 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. Planning 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 rock 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 and I think this really paid off.

    3. Finding a LMT (licensed massage therapist). 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 free of charge. Many massage schools offer free or cheap massage sessions from students so they can practice.

    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 of weight (probably because of the huge amount of time I spent doing PT and any other exercise I was allowed, more on that later).

    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 and it all felt super easy).

    3. Climbed Broken Top near my home (4k ft vert, 12 miles hiking, scrambling up to low 5th class rock) with the wife and a friend in September 4 months post-ACL-op, was the fittest uphill walker of the three!

    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.

    Thank you to Scott Johnston for encouraging me and sharing your injury story in my earlier threads. Also, thank you to several other posters whose names I can’t recall who also shared encouragement, stories and perspective. Hopefully this helps some people.


  • Inactive
    Anonymous on #15102


    So glad that your recovery is going so well. Its all down to your dedication and focus.

    Great work!


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