Knee Surgery Chronicles – Part I: The Injury

Knee Surgery Chronicles – Part I: The Injury

From today’s date it has been exactly 1 year, 3 months and 4 days since I had PCL (Posterior Cruciate Ligament) reconstructive surgery as well as micro-fracture surgery on my right knee. I was discharged from physical therapy in November of 2015 and given post-therapy instructions to facilitate a full return to activity. The goal of this multi-part series is to detail my experience from the initial injury event until present day. I will start by talking about how I got injured and why I determined surgery to be the best decision for me. Keep in mind that I figured out many details of this injury only years later.

My knee is a cantaloupe!

As mentioned on my “About Me” page, I have been a competitive Taekwondo athlete for many years. The initial bout of injury happened about nine years ago, in the finals of a state championship tournament. I clashed knees with my opponent about halfway into the match, completely disabling my leg and leaving me unable to stand up and continue the match (this has been the only match so far that I did not finish). My knee instantly began to swell and in less than an hour it was the size of a cantaloupe.

For the next three weeks I did everything I could to get the swelling down. My knee was full of fluid and very puffy, also known as “Knee Effusion” or “Water on the Knee“. I saw a physical therapist at a local facility, and after his assessment he didn’t believe any ligaments were torn. He did say that if the fluid didn’t leave eventually, my knee would have to be drained. Having only heard bad things about draining fluid from knees, I wanted nothing to do with this approach.

I continued to ice it as advised to help bring down the swelling. I also did some rough research on knee swelling and I read somewhere that light cardio would help get rid of the fluid. As soon as I could I began to do some light walking and jogging sessions. The swelling gradually went away and in about a month my knee was back to normal size. It did however take another month or so for me to feel ready to get back on the mat at Taekwondo practice. With a lot of modified exercises and some patience I was soon able to return to full activity and competition.

My knee buckled!

A couple of years later, in yet another Taekwondo tournament, I re-injured the same knee in my first match of the day. My left leg got trapped on my opponent’s shoulder after I executed a head-level roundhouse kick. He rushed forward in an attempt to counter with a technique of his own, putting his weight (and mine) on my standing (right) leg. This caused my knee to buckle and give out from the pressure, causing a great deal of pain. I somehow finished (and won) that match, but was unable to advance in the tournament.

My knee didn’t swell much this time around and there was no fluid buildup. It was just very sore and weak for about a month. I recovered relatively quickly and was able to return to action in no time. I did however begin to suspect that maybe my knee wasn’t exactly 100% healthy.

The final straw

In the summer of 2014, I took a trip with my team to the 2014 Taekwondo National Championships in San Jose, California. I went as a coach only that year, but during one of our long breaks I joined in on a quick pad-work session with some of the other coaches. Being that it was just a light session I only threw kicks at about a 60-80% level of power. About 10 minutes into it, I threw a kick with my right leg, and upon putting it down I felt sharp pain in my knee. At first I thought it was just a bad step and tried to shake it off, but something was clearly very wrong with it.

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MRI – Jan 2015

This time the pain didn’t go away. My knee would give out unexpectedly while walking, and if I attempted to throw a kick I felt sharp pain in my knee. No amount of icing or rest made a difference, and even after four months there was no change. At this point I realized I had really messed something up in my knee. So I went to see an Orthopedic specialist in January of 2015. He did a quick evaluation, and although he ordered an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), he said he could already tell that my PCL was severely damaged. The MRI results confirmed everything he said plus revealing some cartilage damage in my knee. Given that PCL injuries don’t necessarily limit ADLs (activities of daily living), he said I could go on living without getting reconstructive surgery. But if I ever wanted to compete again or train at the same intensity, surgery was the best route.

The decision

I tried to avoid surgery by doing physical therapy, but this approach proved to be unsuccessful for me. The therapists gave me exercises they thought would help and I did not get better. After giving it some serious thought, I went back to the specialist and scheduled reconstructive PCL surgery. This was a very nerve-wrecking time as it is the only surgical procedure I have ever had. The next step was to go through all the pre-surgery protocols and plan my post-surgery life…


Have you ever had a serious injury that prevented you from performing sports or daily activities? Was surgery recommended to fix the issue? Please COMMENT below and share your experience. Also LIKE this post if you enjoyed it and SUBSCRIBE to my blog, so you don’t miss the next part…

6 thoughts on “Knee Surgery Chronicles – Part I: The Injury

  1. Hi Rex, I had a very bad 10ft fall when I was 11 and I had horrendous pain all my life until 5 years ago (when I was 50) I had rods & a cage put in my spine to replace a disc and decompress 2. The spinal surgeon told me that if I had not been exercising all those years I would have been in a wheelchair, and my recovery was quick for that very same reason. 5 years (almost to the day) since my surgery, I have no pain, am exercising as always and it’s tremendous. We do need to look after our bodies from all angles – physically, nutritionally and mentally as we have been given a very special bundle to look after. Look after your knees – take care.

    1. Wow! I’m glad to hear you’re now pain-free. Living all your life with pain sounds like a HORRIBLE thing. You must have an iron will to keep exercising in spite of that, and apparently it’s a great thing you did!

      We do need to be careful with our bodies, since we only get one kit in this lifetime.

      Thanks for sharing!

      -Rex
      http://www.rexathletics.com

  2. Injuries can be so frustrating especially since I’ve dealt with so many rotator cuff injuries over the years. Initially i tore my rotator cuff playing baseball in the fall for a traveling team, i then strained my left rotator cuff throwing a punch on a heavy bag at one of our muay thai practices. A few years and many physical therapy sessions later, i hurt my left rotator cuff once again performing military presses. One mistake i did after each injury was rush to get back, and i am pretty sure that is why i kept re-aggravating my shoulder. I just hate not being active.

    1. That sounds painful! I remember seeing a couple of rotator cuff patients at physical therapy and it seemed to be a very nagging injury. I echo your sentiment about coming back too early. It is probably one of the main reasons my knee got aggravated so much; I didn’t want to stay off the mat! But I was pretty ignorant about knee injuries at that point, and I definitely could have done a better job of managing it. Better late than never, right? I am now pretty conscious of the state of my knee.
      Thanks for sharing!

      -Rex
      http://www.rexathletics.com

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