perspectives - FEBRUARY 2019
Kitesurfer Gains Life Lessons from ACL Injury
Athlete: Karim El Khouly
Karim El Khouly is a 20 year old athlete from Cairo, Egypt with a passion for kitesurfing. He has been hooked to the sport ever since discovering it, and spent his weekends doing what he loved - kitesurfing.
Despite the devastating injury, he has learned life lessons from this injury, which have developed him as an athlete both physically and mentally. He learned to trust his instincts, listen to his body, and gained a different perspective of "time” in the grand scheme of life.
“I live in Cairo, Egypt. But that’s not the place where I feel most alive. 200 km out of Cairo is a small city called Ras Sudr, a place where the wind is constantly blowing and the beach is calling. It is where you will find beautiful sandy lagoons and islands, super flat water. The astonishing marine life is what caught my parents’ attention to this place.
I’ve been going up to Ras Sudr ever since I was a kid. I never really spent time in the city. I watched kitesurfing grow and develop in Ras Sudr however never got the chance to try it. One day a friend of mine gave me a kite and told me just play around with it, I’ve been hooked ever since. I spend my weekdays at Uni and travel on the weekends to do what I love kitesurf, film and teach new students how to kitesurf.
Injury is big risk one faces in kitesurf if you tend to do the more extreme aspects of kitesurfing, instead of the more relaxed cruise mode. I tore my ACL while performing a trick called “kite loop”, where you jump and make the kite loop around itself, generating a strong pull which throws you across the sky. I was unlucky one day and got the kite dis-attached from me after doing this trick resulting in me free falling 6-7 meters and falling straight on my leg. The entire force from my landing went to straight my right knee and I HEARD IT.
One could say it was all due to bad luck, however I had just come back from a 4 month ankle injury from longboarding and I was in no shape ready to be doing aggressive tricks like these. At that point, I lacked strength and balance on my right leg, further increasing the risk of injury.
I was furious with my physiotherapist who gave me the go ahead to get back and kitesurf. I knew I was going to face the biggest challenge of my life so far. I heard all the dreadful stories about tearing an ACL and how tough the operation and physiotherapy was, but I never thought I would go through it. However, the day came…
On October 6th 2018, I went into the operating room and thank God it was successful and everything went by smoothly. The hardest part, however, was just beginning. The day after the surgery, I started physiotherapy and the real challenge had begun. 3 hours a day, 5 times a week was the program with my new physiotherapist. Its super tough at the beginning, feeling like you’ve lost all sort of motion and strength in your leg. It seemed impossible that I would be able to get back to where I was. I realized later, that that was the worst way one could think, which is why my parents supported and motivated me daily. They constantly reminded me if others did it and got back to kitesurfing, then I could too. That’s when my mentality changed and I took this whole injury as a challenge.
Staying motivated is key to overcoming this injury. 6-9 months’ worth of motivational content is hard to find, which is why you need to keep yourself busy. I personally started playing the guitar. Another important aspect to overcoming physiotherapy is staying consistent with the therapy. That’s the most difficult, because how the body works is astonishing - it’s like a wave going up and down. Some weeks you’re progressing and doing well, and other days you feel like your body is not responding.
Sticking to the therapy is KEY. In the first three months, you are constantly witnessing change and the knee range of motion is improving and you’re walking better without crutches. Also, the pain starts to go away, so you are motivated and happy. However, after that, it’s all about building muscle and balance where the progress is not as visible to the eye as it was before, and that’s where people start losing consistency in their recovery.
Remember by, 3 months, you are almost halfway there. I’m 75% done with my physiotherapy and I’m at a point where I am building muscle mass so that I’m strong when I return to the water.
This injury helped me connect with my body a lot more than I did previously. The day I got injured, my body was telling me not to perform that trick. However, I didn’t listen and I fell for peer pressure. Now I know that the body is much smarter than one would think and if your body is telling you to stop or slow down, you need to listen to it.
Another perspective of mine that changed was how I was so concerned about time and not wanting to miss out. When I got injured I was devastated that I would miss 6-9 months of kitesurfing but later on I started to tell myself ‘what’s 6-9 months in a lifetime it’s nothing’. Now that time is not a key obstacle in my recovery I am less concerned about how much I’m missing out, temporarily, and more concerned about reaching an end goal which will allow me to participate much more in life than the couple of months that I missed out on. ”
Thank you Karim for sharing your story to inspire athletes across the globe. We wish you all the best in your recovery!