perspectives - december 2018
how a bumblebee led to a torn ACL
athlete: kerry morris
connect with her on ig: @thekerrygram
A vast majority of ACL injuries are a result of sports injuries such as sharp turn or pivot on the soccer field or a basketball court. However there are others who are faced with an ACL tear as a result of freak accidents.
For Kerry Morris, jogger and frequent gym goer, her ACL tear happened when she tried to kill a bumblebee on her sofa with her sneaker. Never would she have expected that it would have resulted in an ACL surgery and a 9-12 month recovery process.
Like many others, she did not have a clue what an ACL, MCL, or PCL was at the time of the injury.
Kerry shares her story and journey through recovery, which many of you will be able to relate to, whether or not you are an athlete.
I want to share an all too common, but not “popular” injury, tearing an ACL along with my story, to help the XCLevation community as well as others recovering from this injury.
You often see this injury in soccer, basketball, softball, martial arts - athletes. But what about your common fitness guru? Your 20-something who falls on the dance floor who hikes every Monday, or a mom working 9-5 with three kids who slips and falls in the shower who loves Zumba… or me, someone who tried to kill a hornet on her sofa with her sneaker; who hikes, kayaks, bikes - you name it!
I had a summer planned of activities, and now they have all been cancelled and put off for a year, in order to deal with this recovery - that’s right - anywhere from 9 to 12 months.
I have been using the social media platform of Instagram (my handle @thekerrygram) to inspire and help myself and others through my experiences and physical therapy exercises (via sharing pictures and videos).
The ACL community is a strong one, and we all help and support each other - whether it’s sharing ideas like kinesiology tape, reps, or posture. I never knew I would grow into a community of such strong women and men who are from all walks of life and pulled together by a common bond and injury. This is a slow, strenuous recovery and patience is required, BUT I wouldn’t change a thing because I’m wiser and tougher for it.
So here’s what happened:
On May 3, 2018, at approximately 7:30 PM, my life changed and took a course unimaginable, unforeseeable to me or anyone around me. I tore my ACL, also known as the anterior cruciate ligament. “A what?! who?”
So there I was, just coming home from a typical run outside. A bumblebee was buzzing around my living room and landed on my couch. I threw my left leg up on my couch to kill it…
The bee got loose.
I spooked - and my leg went down. My knee twisted in a different position... a FLUKE incident.....
Blinding misery, sweat, pounding the floor, screaming “WHAT HAVE I DONE?! Can I walk on it?”
If you are anyone like me, a 30-something jogger and gym goer three times a week, you do not have a clue about sports injuries; not the faintest idea what in the world an ACL, MCL, PCL is.... If you drop to the floor in excruciating pain, your first thought is that you most definitely broke a bone…
..but NOPE that’s not it, because THAT would be too easy.
So what comes next? ... The dreaded Orthopaedic appointment - the X-ray, and finally the FINAL say: The MRI. “We need to make sure you didn’t do damage to a ligament, we will call you with results.”
A call on a Friday night at 4:49 PM (after googling possible knee injuries all day and thinking “OK as long as I didn’t tear my ACL I will be OKAY", maybe it’s a sprained MCL...”), the doctors tell me: I’m sorry but you have completely torn your ACL. Unfortunately at this stage of the game, being young and active, it’s a no brainer to have surgery…
(I thought, "SURGERY?! I’ve never had surgery before!” - cut to the anxious, nervous, hard to swallow truth.)
Surgery is optional, however if you opt out, you opt out of a normal active lifestyle... normal as I see it, no more pivoting ... and jumping.... and your knee turns into a ticking time bomb for buckling, at any given time.
Your options are to replace your torn ligament with:
(3) Cadaver (allograft - donor)
I was to partake in 6 weeks of physical therapy and work on my full ROM (range of motion). My knee and leg had to be strong for the surgery and recovery.
On 5/11, I started physiotherapy and worked with an amazing therapist. I was able to come off crutches and a knee brace after four weeks and then walk normally. Surgery was scheduled 6/26.
This is one of the few injuries that will require PT prior to the surgery to strengthen. Once you tear your ACL you lose your quad strength and calf strength. For a smooth recovery post-surgery, you want all the strength you can muster because you will become weak again.
This journey is one of patience, determination, and strength - both mental and physical. It has the lowest of lows and highest of highs. Your active lifestyle may be on pause for months, but your recovery builds a stronger, tougher, inner strength. You have to celebrate the victories no matter how big or small, whether that’s going from two crutches to one, or putting a sock on by yourself. It is a true journey.
Physical therapy is absolutely essential to recovery and it brought back my confidence from the depths of despair post-surgery in incremental steps of two crutches to one crutch, to a cane, to limping, and building back muscle to confidently walk without assistance. Each week, you will surprise yourself with amazing strides whether it’s the degrees of flexion or your extension, or the ability to perform your first mini squat or get up from a chair. All of these things will build back your confidence. For example, my shining moment was noticing with a grin that I was leaning my elbow on my surgical knee while I was sitting on my bed with my heel raised.
My point is that your normalcy will come back and you will smile when you notice it.
I also want to mention that a crucial support system is absolutely necessary. Whether it’s helping you do laundry, make meals or shower, you need assistance the first month, as your body is recovering and you will be weaker than you think. Every movement will require thought like never before, until you are strong again.
At 5 months post-surgery now, personally, I can attest to the fact that my knee does not quite feel “normal.” My knee is now facing a new normal, in that I have to work harder to bring it back to where it used to be. The stairs are still a struggle, specifically stepping down (there is more pain after a gym or physiotherapy session). You have to work on your knee every other day. You have to want the strength and power - like needing oxygen to breathe, exercise provides your knee and leg the muscle with the strength that it needs. I am someone who loves running, and I have built up to roughly ten minutes at 4.7 mph (pre-injury I ran 6.7 mph) at this point, and each month, it gets better. I can now hop, squat, squat jump, balance, perform single leg dead lifts, single leg squats and stretch continuously. This is a work in progress, not a race or competition. You work everyday on yourself, for yourself.
One piece of advice I received from PT along the way, was never to exercise back-to-back days because you need to provide your body time to rest in between sessions.
I want people to know that there is hope. You have to push yourself with each rep, with each exercise and that somewhere in the hopelessness of recovery you will build character. You will build a new you, a new life, a new ACL.