Thursday, January 8, 2015

Another Knee Surgery Today

Hello everyone. I am writing this post still a little messed up on the pain killers and the post surgery loopiness (so please excuse me if this is a little incoherent).

Everything was going great with my surgery in February after the Olympics, I had a pretty good summer all things considered. I really would have hoped to get some mogul training in this summer but unfortunately that was not on a recommended ACL rehab plan.
Pic of me slacklining this summer 
I was in at the US Ski Team gym in Park City Utah doing physical therapy (rehab) and strength training almost every day this summer. I was also super fortunate and rode my road bike thousands of miles this summer because the weather was so nice and it is a great activity of rehabbing athletes. I think that being able to bike made my legs equal strength faster. I got as strong as I have ever been towards the middle/end of the summer and was feeling very confident in my knee repair.

Pic of me mountain biking this fall
 For most of the summer my activities were fairly limited to gym work with the physical therapists and strength trainers but I was able to go on long road bike rides, hike sometimes, golfing, and rock climbing. Towards the end of the summer I got cleared to mountain bike, and slackline on a low line. It was really nice to have some new activities because as much as I love road biking I was getting a bit sick of it after riding the same 3-4 loops for so many of my miles. It was really fun to be able to mountain bike because there are lots of really fun mtn biking trails in the Park City area. I got strength tested a lot this summer so that we would know where I was at in terms of my recovery. I had some good results and I was able to convince the all of my coaches and medical personal to let me go to Lake Placid, New York and get at least a few days on water ramps to help increase my confidence and make sure that I could do my difficult tricks (being a backfull and cork 7) with the same ease and control as before. Water ramping felt good and really great to be on skis and in the air. I had done about 1000 jumps on the water ramps the summer before the Olympics and this year I got 35. I was super grateful for each jump that I got to take and the confidence it brought.
I also enjoyed some golfing this summer
After Lake Placid I went back to Vail in anticipation of the snow that was soon to come to Colorado and the clearance from my Dr's. and the US Ski Team to start skiing again. My knee was feeling great, I was strong and I felt like I had great control. I rarely even thought about the knee besides the constant reminder with the discomfort to some of my leg muscles that my knee brace was causing. I started skiing moguls about two weeks after I started skiing, and was able to start a jumping progression after about three plus weeks of skiing moguls and skiing full sections of moguls at a somewhat decent speed.
One of my first days on snow this year
Holding up Joe doing a cork 7
I got a few opportunities to coach some Colorado kids around Christmas while I was waiting for some more formal training from the ski team. I coached some kids in Vail before Christmas and after I coached some Aspen kids because I was over there to visit my grandparents and the rest of my family for Christmas. I really enjoy coaching the kids as long as they are willing to try and have a good attitude. I don't really have the patience for the ones that just stand there all day.
Once I was done with coaching for the Christmas camps, I headed out to Park City for some training for the World Cup that is happening tomorrow and on Saturday. I was feeling great and possibly was going to compete in the Deer Valley World Cup. I was going to compete in World Champs that are in Austria next week. I got to Park City and did a few days of training at the Utah Olympic Park (UOP) and it got really cold. I was planning on throwing my first backfulls of the season during one of the training days at the UOP but didn't feel like doing it in the bitter cold. I just stuck to some layouts and was feeling very confident with those and they were looking good.
We had a day off because most of my teammates were heading to Calgary for the second World Cup of the season, and I rested that day but went and free skied at the Canyons the next day because I did not feel like taking two days off. It was still brutally cold and I could not find anyone to go skiing with so I went by myself. It was pretty fun but I felt like I was stuck on the more boring trails that were groomed and had snow making because the mountain was pretty bare. I did try to venture off to some of the runs with natural snow that looked pretty fun but I hit a lot of rocks. I think it would be fun to check that mountain out when it has a bit more snow on it.
Since I was not able to compete at Calgary, I was training on the Deer Valley course with the nor-am crew on the ski team. The course was looking pretty sweet this year, they got rid of the big water fall drop into the top air which made the top section look flatter and less intimidating. I was really excited for when the rest of the world cup skiers would get there because the course needed more depth in the turns. The volunteers had just built the course, they had done an excellent job with it but it just needed traffic on it to feel like the normal DV course to me because it is usually super deep. During the last day of unofficial training for me I took a pretty hard landing on the top air on a back flip and felt like I bruised the bone on my knee again. I skied over to the side of the course and had to take about a minute to regroup and take some breaths because that was the most my knee had hurt in a while. I did a miniature replay and self assessment and came to the conclusion that I had not heard any pops so my ACL was probably still okay but I had still had a hard landing that could have caused some problems especially bone damage. I took my skis off and hiked back up to the flat spot next to the top air. I talked with my coach, I was definitely freaked out I did not want to have hurt my knee again. I sat there for about five minutes and readjusted my knee brace and decided that it was probably not a good idea to jump anymore that day because if something was wrong it would probably make it worse, even though my knee was feeling okay when I was just standing by the jump. I put my skis back on and I checked out the landing, it did feel a little firm where I had landed, probably was one of the contributing factors to the bone bruise. I skied down about 1/2 of the middle section at a fairly mellow pace just to see how things were feeling. It felt fine, stable and did not hurt. The only time and place it hurt was when I straightened my leg all the way and fired the quad, I felt a little bit of patella tendon pain but not much more than I had been experiencing in the last few months after many days of skiing in a row. I always felt like the knee brace was pulling on my muscles funny and making the patella tendon easily aggravated.
I got to the bottom and went inside checked it out and did not see very much swelling which is usually a good sign when suspecting knee problems. I still wanted to get it checked out by the ski team medical staff. I got it examined and they thought I could have re-torn my ACL so they ordered an MRI for the next morning. I got the MRI and waiting to hear the results was pretty stressful. I was stretching and foam rolling and pacing back and fourth across the team gym for hours. Finally they tell me to go upstairs, we are going to have a conference call with my surgical doc and the mogul team doc along with all of the head mogul coaches and the medical staff at the gym. So when the doc's call in and one of the first things they say was "sorry to hear about your injury" my heart just drops, my knee feel good, injury this can't be good I didn't re-injure it, how could it feel this good and stable and be an injury! So I try to keep my composure together and listen to what they are saying. Okay bone bruise, not surprising the landing felt like that, meniscus tear possibly a bad one, I'm thinking how? It doesn't feel like that and it usually means surgery, and then they say the ACL looks like it is torn and as little as 25% might be left. My heart dropped more and I'm fighting back tears, not again, no I don't want to go through that again. Deer Valley is out for me, World Champs is out for me and depending on how the examination under anesthesia and the scope goes I could be out for the rest of the season. I was told to wait for out team doc to get to Utah on Wednesday and he would feel it and try to see how the ACL feels. I knew that they needed to go in for a scope any way so I was confused as to why I needed to wait for Dr. Goltz to come to Utah when I could drive back to Vail and have the doc who did my last surgery look at it and get to surgery sooner.
My mom flew out from Vail to drive me back to Vail, and we go the okay to just see Dr. Sterett, my surgical doctor in Vail, and he looked at it on Wednesday and thought it felt stable, I could jump single leg no problem, jog no problem and squat no problem so he wanted another MRI. I got it, it looked better but they still wanted to surgery to clean up the meniscus and scar tissue and examine the graft when I was asleep so I couldn't guard it at all with my muscles. I had surgery scheduled for Thursday morning (this morning).
I was definitely nervous and had lots of questions. Dr. Sterrit was amazing, he explained everything, answered my complicated questions and made me feel so comfortable, I trust that man so much. It was definitely a possibility that he would have had to replace the ACL graft again even if it was partially intact. I really as hoping and praying that enough of it would be there if not all of it so I could keep my current ACL. Like I said above it was feeling really good, I was skiing really well and my knee felt stable.

Finding out that I did not have to have my
ACL replaced, I may not look it but I am super excited
The surgery went as well as I possibly could have expected! Just a trim on the meniscus and clean up  of some tissue that was folded forward on the ACL causing some non-painful clicking in the knee that I had noticed for a while. It was actually probably a great thing that they caught this, as upsetting and saddening as it is that I had to get another surgery and miss more competitions. I hope that I am good for the long run now and maybe if everything goes well from here I have hope that I can ski again this year. But not sure of the recovery time yet. I am so thankful to have such a good surgeon who is also an incredibly nice guy that really cares about me.
Thank you Mom for flying to Park City just to turn around and drive back to Vail with me and thank you Dr. Sterett for squeezing me in fixing me up and going out of your way to help me so much. Also thanks to the rest of the staff back in Park City and everyone fore reading this.
I am just so thankful that this is all that it was and I hope to be back on my feet again on no time.