History of my knee

As in any story, a little background information helps bring one up to what is going on in the present. Since I have decided on a knee replacement, the trauma story of my knee is relevant.  Here is some of that history.

Public School Years

I was a springboard diver starting at age 8 and I started gymnastics around age 10. During high school, I used to tumble almost daily in gymnastics class.  We were luck as we had 2 layers of mats. First we had a layer of old horse hair mats and then we put a layer of one inch foam mats on top of that. So yes we had it good compared to those who just had the one inch layer of mats. (Nowadays, when you watch gymnastics on TV, the floor is made of 4 inch springs under plywood with 2 inches of foam on top of that.) Anyway at that time I had patellar tendinitis in my right knee which did slow me down somewhat. I used to put ice or cold water on it after workouts.

Strange happening #1. One day my senior year in High School I woke up and the pain of the Patellar tendinitis moved from my right knee to my left knee. I found this extremely weird but the adults I presented this problem/oddity to didn’t seem to give it much attention, perhaps they thought I was mistaken.

College Years

But the big trauma that happened to me was in 1979 during my sophomore year in college. We were having our first meet of the year at the US Naval Academy. As I was dismounting off the High Bar and as I was landing, I hit a soft spot in the mat and my  right leg hyperextended and I heard a big crunching sound and landed on the mat in great pain clutching my knee. I was attended to by the athletic trainers and taken to the training room where I was evaluated. They moved my knee around checking the ligaments and movement in all directions was very loose.  Several trainers and I think a few flight surgeons in the audience came to check me out.  Each performed the movements such as the drawer test, and tests on the medial and lateral collateral ligaments which I failed.  They told me that I had pretty much torn every ligament in my knee and would be lucky to walk again.

I was then given pain meds but into the back seat of a Ford Pinto and driven three hours back to Williamsburg Hospital where I was told I would undergo surgery in the morning.  I remember being on a gurney singing the “they are going to operate on my knee blues” in some sort of opioid fog as they checked me into the hospital.

The next morning I was preped for surgery and I remember the anesthesiologists asking be to count down from 10. 10, 9, 8……….

When I woke up, the surgeon came in and said that my leg was just broken and that I should be better in 6 weeks.  Then came six weeks of a full leg cast with pins sticking out of it, crutches, getting to classes, snow, asking for rides, etc.

The surgeon took the cast of six weeks later, did the same tests that the athletic trainers did after the injury and said the ligaments looked great.  He re X-rayed the knee and said it looked fine except that there was a five degree bend in the tibia.

That is when my mind kind of went “huh” is that OK? I asked if that was going to be a problem. He didn’t seem to think so, as he popped another pistachio in his mouth.

The knee injury caused me to really work on my upper body strength for a while and I rehabbed my leg for the remainder of the year. By the next year I was tumbling and competing again. During my last year of competition the main issue I had with my knee was the patellar tendonitis which drove me to get a cortisone shot during the last part of the competitive season. That provided relief for about a month.

Post College

After that, my knee was as slight bother. Kneeling was difficult but I could do it. I could tumble and run short distances but I felt limited by it.

Then at age 28, I went to see Frank Wu, a Rolfer, down in Roanoke. I went to see him mostly because I was interested in the Rolfing process and want to perhaps learn more about it. I was amazed at the how my breath, my posture, and my attitude toward life changed. My knee felt a little better but I was so impressed with how everything else changed that I did the whole ten series.

About eight months after I finished the ten series, I noted that my knee wasn’t bothering me. It was a gradual improvement over time and I basically noticed that I didn’t notice it so much. Eventually kneeling was not an issue any more. I still didn’t like running much but I could walk or hike for hours without issue.

And so went my 30’s and into my 40’s.

In my late 40’s I had some knee issues again but they were minor and I could use yoga and movements to keep them in check.

Mid Century

Then, in 2010, when I was 51, I packed up and moved back to Denver to take care of my parents.

Life took a toll on me and I wasn’t able to take care of myself and do the yoga and movement work.

I noticed that my knee was worse. There was a rotation that spiraled through it. I was more and more bowlegged. I couldn’t walk as far. A mile or so on concrete was painful. Structural Integration session were helpful but the alignment would last more than a few hours.

In 2015, I went the medical route and got an x-ray. They diagnosis was that I need to get my knee replaced. So I did what I usually do when present with something I really didn’t want. I denied it and stepped up my efforts to fix it some other way. I got more Structural Integrations sessions which helped but did not seem to turn the corner.