Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Bare Knee

Last night my knee was bare. Let me explain. It was the first time since my return to karate that I was knee brace-free. Initially I was concerned, but my front kick finally felt like it did pre-ACL surgery. When I wear the brace, I am unable to get the retraction I need to perform the kick properly. I stopped wearing the functional brace a few months ago. I could not move freely and my leg felt robotic. I switched to a Breg short runner and was able to move better but my kicks were not right. After months of brace wearing, I decided it was time to try karate without the brace.

The last time I saw my surgeon was August 2007. He released me at twelve weeks. He told me that at six months I had no restrictions. I was fitted with my functional brace and was told to wear it a year. I never liked the brace. I had the surgery so that I would NOT have to wear a brace. I created my own brace protocol (I am not recommending this I am just sharing my experience). I wore the functional brace until I felt it held me back. I will wear the soft brace until I feel it holds me back. I am going to experiment with a few more brace-free classes. I will continue to wear the soft brace during sparring or during contact drills.

I never understood the different brace protocols from surgeon to surgeon. I had a complete ACL tear and a tiny (notrepaired) meniscus tear. I wore a post-operative brace that was completely locked at extension for five weeks. Some people only wear a brace for a few weeks while others wear the brace with some ROM. I know that each individual case is different but brace preferences are extremely varied. It seemed like those individuals with less bracing needed to rely more on their own strength than the protection of the brace.

Many posts ago I was concerned that I would have a hard time letting go of the brace. I do not think that is a problem anymore.

I am looking forward to many more brace-free days!


Hack Shaft said...

As I mentioned to Bob, always trust your body to tell you whether you need bracing or not. Then let it whine at you just a bit, so you can push things forward.

I was un-braced after about day 7 or 8, and returning to full contact so far has been just fine. Even deep stances are far more challenging for my quads and glutes than my knee!

Best of luck with your brace-free knee, and have faith--it will hold up.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, there seem to be a lot of mysterious differences in acl surgery and recovery protocol. My surgeon was pretty aggressive about getting the brace off. But one of the other surgeons at his center actually prohibits the use of braces for many of his acl patients. He even published a paper on it:


It all seems to be just surgeon's preference; success rate seems high no matter what surgical method or post-op protocol is used.

Michele said...

Hack Shaft: I am still working on trusting my knee again. I wish that I had less bracing during the ACL process.

BBBlues: Interesting study. I think "mysterious" is a good word for the differences in Protocol. I really struggle to understand the bracing differences. I felt confined by the brace.

Flowergirl said...

Wow! It's so inspiring to read of everyone's progress on here. I'm two weeks post-op today and begin therapy tomorrow. I don't usually wear my brace, but I'm going back to work at the garden center next week and am thinking that may be a good idea. I was wondering if anyone would share whether or not when they first tried to straighten their knee if it felt wobbly and unstable. I've been trying to get it to 0 degrees and then stand on it, but it wobbles and doesn't want to lock. Is this normal? I appreciate Hack Shaft, Black Belt Mama and Bob sharing your stories. It takes courage to do that and I appreciate your willingness and candor. Any words of advice or encouragement, I'd love to read them! Thanks guys!


Michele said...

Flowergirl: Thank you for your comment. My knee was wobbly after surgery. I was in a brace, completely locked out, for five weeks. The first six weeks were the most difficult for me.

If you are looking for more information, you may want to check out some of the ACL recovery stories on the links list. They are at various stages of ACL recovery. I found them very helful and encouraging.

Good luck in your recovery!


Your Scrumhalf Connection said...

I have had two knee surgeries now, the most recent was 5 months ago (almost to the day!) and I am back to full-contact rugby now.

I did not use a post-op brace of any kind for either surgery, my doctors always told me that it would only speed up atrophy.

For my first surgery I had a Breg brace pretty quickly and wore it from month 2 to 6. This time around I didn't get a brace until month 3 and then wore it until about month 4 and a half.

Like you, I had problems doing everything I wanted to with the brace (with good reason of course), so I worked hard to get out of it. I wanted to start getting that muscle memory back and that speed, hardest part for me in both knee surgeries!

Keep up that hard work and listen to your body!

Michele said...

Wendy: Thank you for the comment. I think the recipe for ACL success is exactly what you said "hard work and listen to your body". I think your return to full-contact rugby after 5 months is amazing. I wish I would have taken my functional brace off sooner!