On August 17, 2014, I was playing in the VBL Celebrity Basketball game. I was only playing in the game to warm my legs up for the dunk contest that was to follow after. By playing in a celebrity game we were expected to showcase some dunks so on one particular play, my teammate threw the ball of the backboard for me to catch it and dunk. I attempted to catch the ball, put it between my legs and dunk it; but that didn’t go as I planned unfortunately. When I went to finish the dunk the ball hit the rim and bounced away. I was watching the ball and not my landing and when I hit the ground SNAP! I let out a horrific cry of pain as I had just dislocated my leg, tore my ACL and sprained every single ligament in my right knee.
When the doctor told me the news, I felt worse than the actual pain of the injury. I was told it would be 6 months before I would even be able to step on a court to begin practicing. “This can’t be happening to me, this is not real!” were my initial thoughts. But it was real and I would have to get surgery. I discussed the options with my surgeon and since I desired to return to sports he suggested that the best option for me was to receive a patellar graft (the surgeon uses a piece of my patellar tendon and places it where my ACL use to be). I had surgery on October 2, 2014 and began physical therapy 2 weeks after.
The surgery was a success and I was then handed over to the physical therapist. I showed him my dunks and told him that I wanted to get back to that level. He not only agreed but told me I could come back even stronger. I listened to every word he said and worked very hard. At the 3.5-month mark I was cleared to get back in the gym and start playing light pick up game and was encouraged to try to dunk. During my second session I was able to put the ball between my legs and dunk. By the 6-month mark I began doing dunks that even some elite level dunkers were not able to do.
HOW DID I DO IT YOU ASK?! Below I have provided some tips that helped me in my recovery process, I hope you can use some of these to get back to your active lifestyle. Just remember that ultimately your body will dictate your recovery rate and you cannot rush it. However, if you do the right things, you can improve your recovery rate.
PREPARE FOR BATTLE
“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”
If you have just torn your ACL and require surgery understand that you are going to go through a very physically and mentally draining process, it will not be easy. But many people have recovered from this injury and have gone on to have very success sports careers so it is very possible to you can too. Research the different types of surgery and pick the best option for you. Just because I received a patellar graft and I have great success, doesn’t guarantee that you will. Research the local physical therapy facilities and find one that fits your training philosophies and style. Have a specific plan of what you would like to accomplish and how you are going to accomplish those goals. I knew that because I wasn’t going to be as physically active I was going to make sure my nutrition was on point. After surgery, I went on a week juice cleanse and after that slowly began eating mostly fish and vegetables. I avoided all supplements and keep a very natural diet. I made my plans weeks before my surgery and was ready to implement my strategy as soon as I got home.
HAVE A POSITIVE ATTITUDE
Do you know what is worse than being injured? Being injured and being sad about it. Feeling down on yourself is not going to help your body heal any faster. Having a positive attitude helped me get through the tough days of physical therapy. I would mediate a lot and listen to a lot of videos with a positive message. Find something to keep you in positive spirits. I have attached videos that I liked to watch during my recovery process below. Enjoy!
TAKE IT ONE DAY AT A TIME
If you look too far down the road, you will lose focus of the present objective. When I would go into physical therapy, I approached every task that was given to me as the most important thing in my life; even if it was just as simple as bending my leg to a 90º angle, I tried to bend the most perfect 90º angle possible. When I was on the stationary bike, I approached it as if I was competing in the Tour de France. I focused in on whatever task was given to me, and I did it to the best of my ability. Having a “day to day” focus helped expedite my process because it allowed me to progress into physical therapy. In order to progress through physical therapy, you must hit specific benchmarks in order to advance. Your doctor and physical therapists won’t let you run unless you have shown a proficiency in jogging, so there is no point in worrying about the next step if you haven’t even master the step you a currently on. Do not neglect the little things, because in the end everything will add up and have a huge impact on your recovery.
LISTEN TO YOUR HEALTH CARE PROVIDERS
Your doctor and physical therapist want you to be healthy and strong, just as bad as you do. They have spent countless hours in school learning about physical rehabilitation and have years of practicing what they have learned in school. You do not know more than them just because you watched a YouTube video or read a WebMD article about ACL recovery. I really loved my team, they helped me everyday to get back to my feet as fast as possible. I trusted them and that trust lead to amazing session and had a huge impact on my recovery.
R.I.C.E. R.I.C.E. BABY!
R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) this was probably the biggest help in terms of my recovery. A very simple concept that many people overlook. You want to make sure that you are recovering with the same intensity that you are pushing your body; growth and strength come with your body adapting to the stress that you place on it. If you workout and fail to give yourself the proper recovery time then you will be defeating the purpose of that workout. Stay off of your legs when you are able to, make sure you are icing daily as managing the swelling is crucial in the recovery process. Keep compression to also help with the swelling and whenever you can make sure that your knee can be elevated above your heart. In the early stages of m process, I would R.I.C.E. 3-4 times throughout the day and later in the process I would make sure I would R.I.C.E. at least once a day, usually before bed.
I discovered cryotherapy about 4 months into my recovery and it was an amazing experience. Once a day for 2 months I would go into a room that is -240ºF for about 3 minutes and after leaving I would so rejuvenated. Along with the reduction of swelling I notice I had more energy and was even burning a lot of calories, which help me become leaner. For more information go to http://www.cryohealthcare.com/about-cryotherapy
PUSH PAST THE PAIN
In the recovery process, you will have to push past the pain. There will be a lot of discomfort throughout the process. You will be sore, tired and you must continue on even during the difficult times. Just know that the pain is temporary, I spent most of my recovery process sore and tired but in the end I wouldn’t trade any bit of my process to get to where I am now.
Some of the workouts that I believe helped me recover were pool workouts and beach workouts. In the water I was able to perform jumping exercise and it had low impact on my knees. I would go to the deep end and practice movements specific to dunking. As for the sand, it allowed me to sprint with having low impact on my knees. I used these workouts to supplement my physical therapy sessions (after my physical therapist had approved them).
I hope this has helped and I wish you the best of luck on your recovery journey!
Special Thank You to..
Dr. Donald Stevenson, MD…… Phone (310) 674-1211
Airport Marina Physical Therapy…… Phone: (310) 419-7600
CryoHealthcare……. Phone (310) 360-0780
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