Don’t make the same mistake I did. I’ve played soccer most of my life. In my thirties, as my body got out of shape and overweight, I continued to play soccer with the intensity of an eighteen-year-old. Then during a game in 2003 I was in full stride, advancing towards the goal with the ball when it happened. A lightning bolt of pain shot through my leg. I tore my ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) and my meniscus.
The next year I had my knee surgically repaired. My recovery regimen included lots of cycling which strengthened my legs and became habit forming—so much so that I have been able to largely reverse my weight gain and endurance decline from my thirties.
Then came mistake number two. Don’t think that bad knees won’t come in pairs. After over a year in recovery, running Bloomsday, and lightly challenging my repaired knee other ways, I stepped back on to the soccer field. My repaired knee felt great. My other knee didn’t last one game.
Mistake three. Don’t think that just because you bike a lot you can strengthen your leg so much that you can ignore an ACL tear. After another year of trying to take it easy on my other knee I decided to play a little touch football. Not too much stress on the knee right? Wrong. I went up for a spectacular catch and when I landed my knee made a sickening crunch so loud that it startled me into dropping the ball.
My orthopedic doctor who had examined me after both incidents said my knee was now more “loose” after the football crunch. I had two options: work harder to keep my knee from traumatic situations, which could include hiking, trail running, and something as simple as taking an awkward step on the stairs, or surgically repair my 2nd knee and maybe get another decade of more active use—possibly preventing further loosening.
I’m lucky enough to have health insurance, but the future of my coverage is in doubt. I’m 42, but I still have years more to be really active outdoors with my kids. Whatever mistake number four is I don’t want to make it. I’ll be prepping for surgery on my other knee as you read this and reporting back from a pain-killer induced haze next month.
P.S. Check out the digital edition of this month’s mag at issuu.com; search “Out There Monthly.”