Hana Benetkova is a 27 year old physiotherapist from Central Europe. She loves gymnastics, nature, laughter and beer.
1) Can you share your ACL story?
I injured my knee the first time a few seconds after I did my first somersault of my life on small trampoline. I had cast for a few weeks, and did some rehab. For long time, my knee was feeling fine. I was 14 years old at the time. After several years, my knee started making a weird sound and the tibia repositioned when bending with internal rotation after full flexion. I couldn't figure out why. Then at age 24, I twisted my knee twice (doing a somersault with 360 twist). The first time I injured the knee, I felt fine after a few days. But the second time, I couldn't bear full weight or achieve full extension. I knew something was wrong - at the time, I thought it may have just been a meniscus tear. I got an MRI, and results confirmed a torn medial meniscus, as well as a stretched MCL and ACL. After 2 months post injury, I underwent arthroscopy and medial menisectomy. After this surgery, the doctor told me that ACL was stretched and not functioning well. I did rehab for 2 months and in the end I underwent ACL reconstruction using a patellar tendon graft. I was in a brace for about 7 weeks non-weight bearing. It really sucked. I was absolutely dependent on my family. I started rehab and at the 2 month mark, I started swimming. At 3 months, I started jogging. Finally, after 9 months, I started with gymnastics again. It was tough because my teammates wanted me to get back earlier, but I knew it would be worth waiting a bit longer.
2) What was the hardest part of the experience?
Hardest part of all of this was probably the initial period after ACL reconstruction. I was completely non-weightbearing and locked in brace (0-60°), unable to take care about myself. It was winter, and some weeks I felt useless. I felt cut off the world...
3) How did you stay motivated throughout the process?
Luckily, my recovery did not have any complications. I don't remember much time that I did not have motivation. But the very beginning was tough. When I stared weight-bearing again, I had a weird tibia twisting sensation every step, which I did not have pre-surgery. This was discouraging. But luckily by 3 months post-op, it went away. I think the most motivational factor was the aim to get back to gymnastics. I knew that I would have to be 100% prepared and feel good before getting back to gymnastics. A big motivation was my supportive family and some teammates which had previously been through the same injury/surgery.
4) What advice would you give to other athletes on the road to recovery?
Stay focused on your aim. Take you time, it counts. While are you starting again with playing your sport, do it like you are doing it for the first time in your life. Be patient and safe, but if you feel really comfortable, give things a try - you will be later suprised, that you and your knee can do it :)
5) Do you think this experience changed you as a person?
Of course! The injury, surgery and everything else involved changed me. I'm more careful, and I listen to my body more. Since I'm a physiotherapist, I now have a better understanding of how patients feel, what they are going through, and what kind of thoughts are running through their mind. I think I am now in a better position to motivate and encourage them.