Natalie is the Founder of the fitness and lifestyle blog, Flexx & The City, based in New York City. She was a Division I athlete in college, and athletic activities continue to be a mainstay in her daily life. She loves to travel and find creative outlets. She is also a Behavioural Therapist for children 5 years and younger, although she does not believe that her job defines her.
follow her on instagram: @flexxandthecity
Q&A with Natalie S.
1) Can you share your ACL story?
I was in the gym training on a Friday afternoon, much like any other day. I was doing an agility drill and decided to go a little extra. I essentially performed a broad jump over a few bags, and landed - BADLY. My leg went in then out I heard/felt a pop, and knew something was wrong immediately.
Luckily my man was with me and we went straight to urgent care- (I know this sounds ridiculous- and it is). I couldn’t walk so they gave me crutches. In the car there I called an orthopaedic I knew of to set up an appointment for the following Monday. I also knew I needed an MRI so I had my Dr. schedule me for that same night - 10pm actually.
Anyhow - turned out I had a complete ACL tear, torn MCL, and lesions on the meniscus. SUX!
I saw the Dr. Monday morning and got on a scheduled plane to Florida that’s same night to see my family. I am not a fan of being in a wheelchair- I like being in control of my speed and direction, being in the airport injured is not ideal. I saw a few more orthopaedic surgeons when I got back to NY and decided on my doctor. I had to go to PT for a month prior to the surgery to gain back my mobility to ensure I would get it back post surgery. I went literally every day (for torture) until they told me I could have the surgery; I just wanted to get it over with.
A few things I think people should know- Everyone says this surgery is not such a big deal these days - so many athletes have it, blah blah blah - just because it is more common place, and there are advances in technology does NOT mean it’s not a big deal. Just because there are a ton of surgeons who do this does not make it simple, or easy. It’s a very long recovery and its not fun.
Finding a surgeon for me was a bit difficult with insurance as well as whom I feel was best. I had my surgery at HSS with Dr. Gregory Difelice. He is working to revolutionize this surgery. In as many patients as he can he REPAIRS the ligament instead of replacing it. This procedure is much less invasive. I was unfortunately not a candidate for this. Once they got inside the knee they had to replace the ligament. I used my hamstring as recommended. A girl my same age who had surgery the same day as me who was able to have a REPAIR was up and running in a month, while I was still working to bend and straighten my leg. I envy her and a little bit dislike her.
2) What was the hardest part of the recovery experience?
The pain I could handle- the mental aspect is what started to take a toll.
The first month or two you are like I can deal with this it’s the beginning of recovery. After having your leg pushed and pulled and not seeing the numbers change on how far u can flex and bend is not easy. I cried a few times at PT out of frustration/exhaustion/and maybe pain (I guess there is only so much you can take).
Then you start to feel better and at 4/5 months when you can move around and start performing more rigorous activities, the mental aspect hits again. You feel like you should be able to do a lot, but you are still very weak and nowhere near where your brain thinks you are. I was also in the best shape of my life prior to this injury, so my expectation of myself were very high.
3) How did you stay motivated during the recovery?
I have a really good support team. I am 6 months post-op and I would say I am still in recovery. I can do a lot, (cycling, lifting, yoga, rowing) I am the person who pushed boundaries, but I am nowhere near full health. When they tell you it will take about 9 months believe them. Focus on the progress no matter how small it may be. I was really hard on myself when I couldn’t complete a workout that is typically a breeze.
4) What advice can you share with other athletes recovering from ACL surgery? Do you have any tips/tricks?
Try to stay as active as possible- swimming and pool workouts once you are cleared to do so are a game changer. Eat as clean as possible it helps in recovery. Everyone’s healing process is different. Find a good PT.
5) What have you learned from this experience?
This too shall pass. I would like to say I had some life changing epiphany, but I didn’t. I guess to be more cautious- even though I don’t want to be, but even more I never want to experience this again.
Thank you Natalie for sharing your story and experience with athletes across the globe recovering from injury!