Class-3 knee

No use in burying the lede: I tore my ACL on Saturday, and am out for the rest of the ski season.

Steve and I had just finished our first day of ski and toboggan training as Whitetail Ski Patrol candidates, and I was skiing the couple hundred feet between where we parted ways with our instructors and the lift. I was merrily skiing along, making slow, short-radius turns, when a snowboarder slammed into me from behind.

Steve and I told the kid who hit me to stay put while I assessed the extent of the injury (we may have said something along the lines of, “You better stay put, buddy!”).  We quickly realized the kid we reprimanded was not a punk, but the concerned, apologetic son of another Whitetail volunteer. I didn’t detect any swelling, didn’t feel any pain and didn’t hear the “pop” everyone associates with anterior cruciate ligament tears—my right leg was just kind of wobbly. I told Steve I’d be skiing down to the clinic, because everything was clearly fine. I will forever give him credit for expertly managing his first crazy, unreasonable patient (i.e., me), and convincing me to accept a ride down. I will also be forever grateful to the S&T instructor who brought a snowmobile rather than a sled, which made the trip to the clinic feel exciting rather than depressing.

I got most of my self-pitying behavior out of the way before I reached the clinic, after asking the instructor driving the snowmobile if he minded cursing. I grew up in New Jersey, and Steve would describe what happened next as me “going from zero to Jersey in no time flat.” I’m sorry to report that the kid who hit me learned some new and exciting language, too (to be clear, I was cursing around him, not *at* him. Still: oops).

After hanging out in the clinic and icing my knee for a while, I was still convinced it was fine, despite a creepy catch in my walk. I now identify that “catch” as “moment when my knee does not support my body weight.”

Fast-forward to Dr. Pereles’ office on Monday. I expected a sprain. But when Dr. P. cringed upon bobbling my injured knee in a way I just *knew* wasn’t right, I braced myself for the worst. In addition to being a former college swimmer and marathoner, Dr. P. is also an expert skier, and he knows just what it means to me to be out for the rest of the season. He handed me a tissue box when he told me it was my ACL—basically, a skier’s nightmare.

But there’s lots of good news here. Surgery to repair a torn ACL takes about 45 minutes, and is an outpatient procedure. Recovery is actually pretty quick—I’ll be walking and in physical therapy within days, swimming within two weeks and running shortly after that. I won’t be doing any skiing or other pivoting for five months, but I’ve already found ways to stay involved, training-wise, at Whitetail, from working in the clinic to having Steve haul my gimpy butt around the mountain in a sled for our training (gives new meaning to the whole “in sickness and in health” clause, eh?).

Let’s get a few questions out of the way. Do you get injured a lot? Yeah, apparently. Let’s get past this, and skip the “wow, you have bad luck!” comments, as they’re simply not helpful. Wasn’t it a snowboard last year, too? Yes, and as part of my ongoing training, I plan to gradually increase my exposure to snowboards, in hopes that someday, I’ll be able to come within 10 feet of one without suffering some crazy, season-ending injury. Are you systematically trying to injure every body part at least once? No … but Steve says I should probably be careful with my shoulders, as they might be on deck. For background, please see the wrist I broke on my first and last day snowboarding, and the surgery that followed.

A few things I know for sure:

  • Nothing I did or didn’t do caused this. It was just an accident that I had no control over.
  • In the big scheme of things, this is not a big deal. It’s what I’d call as a class-3 knee on the mountain—nothing life- or limb-threatening. My best friend is fighting breast cancer with grace and strength—surely, I can manage the same with a knee.
  • I’ve never gone through physical therapy without coming out stronger, physically.
  • I’ve never recouped from an injury without coming out stronger, mentally.
  • This is a mere speed bump (or misplaced mogul?) on my ultimate path to becoming a patroller.
  • Sometimes, life throws you a bone: While something stopped me from signing up for a half-marathon in March and a marathon in May, I felt the opposite nudge to sign up for the 4.4-mile Great Chesapeake Bay Bridge Swim on June 12. Thank goodness for swimming, the sport of last resort!

Stay tuned for info about my surgery date, which will come as soon as I get insurance mumbo jumbo sorted out. In the meantime, check out the coping-with-injury lessons I won’t have to re-learn from last year:

Motivational quotes for injured athletes

How to call a truce with your body

Resources for injured runners

Coping with running injuries

And, of course, my story in the January/February 2011 issue of Women’s Running, Tips to a successful running comeback


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15 responses to “Class-3 knee

  1. amy

    I am so sorry to hear this! You have a great attitude though and are 100% correct about the ease of surgery and ability to come back stronger. I’ve torn both – one playing soccer, one playing rugby. I have no limitations today from those injuries, and came back to play both sports as well as ski once I was fully healed. If you want any advice (or just an outlet!) from someone who has been there, let me know.

    • THANK YOU for this! I’m sure I’ll be picking your brain frequently in the coming months. For now, the words of encouragement from someone who’s been there are totally priceless—and much appreciated.

  2. Liz

    I’m so impressed with your attitude. I know most people take at least a few weeks of whining before they can look at things in such a positive light!
    Do you still swim at Wilson ever?

    • Thanks, Liz! I just swam at Wilson yesterday, and will likely be a fixture there in the coming months, as it seems like that’ll be the one activity I can consistently do. We’ll have to schedule a swim date sometime soon!

  3. Joel

    Amy, that is a major bummer. What a great attitude to take. I’m sure you’ll come out of this even stronger.

  4. BABY GIRL! I read this on the metro & texted you (obviously you know this) right away, but reading it again…just…whew. From one oft-injured gal to another, my heart truly goes out to you. And I’m in for the swimming dates, and any other rehab support you need. This is just another opportunity for you to grace us all with your fantastic attitude, and come back EVEN STRONGER than ever. xoxo.

  5. Ouch! I’m sorry you get another winter of injury… but you seem to have a really good outlook on this and I’m sure you’ll come stronger (even MORE stronger!) after this experience.

  6. megankillian

    Yikes, girl. Your attitude is incredible. I am so impressed. Best of luck with the recovery.

    From all that I’ve learned about ACL tears (it’s what my PhD was focused on, after all), the sooner you have the surgery- the better. And the more well-reputed your surgeon (which, it sounds like he’s rad!), the better off you are. Just don’t let him do what’s called an allograft as your surgical option (if your surgeon is good, he won’t even let that be an option!). It sounds like it won’t be, since the surgery is so quick.

    And you’re right, you will be stronger afterward, too. Keep us updated.

  7. Liz

    Oh no! I’m so sorry–but I feel your pain. Well, not your knee pain, but your impending surgery pain. I just found out today that I have to get my hip scoped. We’ll get through it!

  8. I am really sorry to hear this. Great attitude, Amy. It’s so important to stay positive and you are doing great at that. During my (kind of ongoing) injury I found out just why: once you let yourself go down that black hole of anger and despair and hopelessness it’s even harder getting back to normal. And try not to beat yourself up when/if you do succumb to a bitter moment here or there.
    I’m glad you can continue your ski patrol training. Finding something to focus on besides what you can’t do really helps.

  9. Jenny Holm

    My thoughts are with you, Amy! I’m rooting for a your quick recovery. Stay strong and know that you have what it takes to make it through this and keep pushing until you reach your goal. You are an inspiration to many, myself included. I’m back in DC and will be looking forward to seeing you again soon!

  10. purpleshoe runs

    frick on a stick! I didn’t even catch this post until just now! sorry to hear about this, Amy. Sounds like you’re already busy making lemonade out of this one though : ) also, I’m deeply amused by the “zero to New Jersey” thing…I’ve always thought of you as 24/7 prim and proper…me and my curses-like-a-sailor (sometimes!) self likes you even better now : )

  11. Pingback: Back in the saddle (of the stationary bike) | Amy Reinink

  12. Pingback: First run back after an ACL tear | Amy Reinink

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