The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

August 19, 2007

You Kneeded Me, you Kneeded Me

THIS GIGANTIC BUT GENTLE SOUL IS A PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER ON THE TEAM I OFTEN WRITE ABOUT FOR THE NEWSPAPER I WORK FOR.

Wary of his name being googled and this post being discovered, I am only calling him Dan.

He's a 6-foot-6, 313-pound offensive lineman and one of the nicest guys you'd want to meet. He's from Florida. And he eats like a horse.

Last season, he blew out his knee.

That is, he was hit in such a way that all of the supportive cartilage and ligaments that allow the knee to function as it does were severed, leaving the joint virtually useless.

He was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and a torn medial collateral ligament, plus he had severe damage to his meniscus, another critical component of a joint that in his case must stand up to intense physical pressure.

He was gone for the season from an injury that, in later interviews with me, he described as "O-line killers" -- an injury that until recently, ended the careers of offensive linemen but also running backs and anyone else.

My interest in his injury was natural. Because the same type of injury happened to me around 1980, when I was on a 4 1/2-month overland bus trip from England to India and back.

I was playing Frisbee football on a hill in Turkey -- somewhere around Ankara, if I remember correctly -- when I was running as fast as I could and jumped up in the air to catch the Frisbee.

I caught the disc in mid-air but when I came down, my right leg landed in a gopher hole or something.

The rest of my body kept going sideways. Because I was running so fast sideways, I blew out my knee.

It was the first serious sports injury I had ever suffered.

The knee swelled up to about three times its normal size. I knew something was wrong but at the time, I figured I was invincible.

We applied ice to it, the swelling went down and I continued on the trip.

Several months later, back home, I had it checked out. I was told there was a slight meniscus tear and I had surgery to repair it.

But the problem didn't go away. My knee could bend unnaturally sideways. There was no support.

I could not play sports and just dealt with it. I got married, we had our first child and my knee kept collapsing on me.

One time it slipped out on some ice and I fell with my daughter, almost hurting her.

Eventually, after two more operations, I finally had what's called a total ACL reconstruct.

They cut me open in several places near the knee.

They took cartilage from my lower thigh and used it to take the place of my ACL, wrapping it through the knee joint and fastening it to a spot below my knee with a bolt.

That procedure was about 15 years ago and I now have pretty normal support in my right knee.

So I could associate with what Dan has gone through.

Except that while I have about 12-14 inches worth of scars from the procedure I had back then, all he has from his modern arthroscopy (scoping) procedure are three little pen-width-sized holes in his knee.

Even though he had the same procedure done, more or less, the same repair for the same problem -- he has had the benefit of drastically improved technology, knowledge, surgical know-how and recovery strategies.

His ACL is more solid than mine is now, but his is solidified by cartilage taken from a cadavre.

He's back playing and performing for the top offence in the league now, although he has to wear a knee brace.

Me?

I'm two decades older than him and my big physical activity will be playing in a benefit softball game next week for a former National Hockey League player, longing for those days when my body could do anything.

Dan and I became pretty good buds talking about our respective injuries and how drastically things have changed in medicine.

So I did a big story on it and the package finally ran in our paper this this past week.

And here are some of the pictures of the two of us together taken last season after his surgery, pictures that were never used for the story, but which I think illustrate how far sports medicine has come...

I don't know whether you can click on these pix to make them larger.

But Dan's thumb and forefinger are pointing at the little holes he has from the arthroscopic surgery he had, while my fingers are pointing at some of my scars from the under-the-knife procedures I had.

You might also be able to see a long scar running down the front of my shin, just below my knee joint. The bump you see at the bottom of that scar is the screw that's holding my knee together.




So I guess the moral of this story is that while he has much bigger calves, thighs, hands and probably most any other thing you can think of, my scars are a whole lot bigger than his.

So I should get a lot more of your sympathy.

And besides, he said feeling very small and old, it's all how you use it.

20 comments:

  1. I notice he's not wearing anklets!

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  2. Ligaments are horrible when they snap.

    I tore the ligament in the back of my ankle, illegal chalenge playing soccer, ankle went through 90 something degrees, very painful....
    I did however kick a goal with it, with much bad language and limping.

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  3. Ziggi:

    MY GOD GIRL! YOU'RE RIGHT!! I think I'll have to bring my daughter down to the dressing room to have a talk with him...

    Aidan:

    Ooooh, now I'm sure THAT would hurt! But what's soccer? Isn't that a girlie sport?

    Just kidding...I wish I had played it more as a kid, but it was all football (North American style), baseball, basketball, hockey...

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  4. Ziggi spotted it first!

    Re: improved procedures. When knee-capping was a favoured stunt of the IRA (40 odd years ago) in Northern Ireland, surgeons at Belfast Infirmary became so adept at repairs the IRA switched to shooting ankles.
    This from a friend who worked on a surgical ward there.

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  5. Dinahmow (Ziggi):

    Hey, WAIT NOW! Is this your thinly veiled vote AGAINST anklets and your support for REAL SOCKS?

    And are you serious about knees and the IRA?

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  6. I'm fascinated by that little bump where the bolt is located. Does your knee ever give you problems? Do you feel more pain in it when the weather is bad? Will you require additional surgery as you get older or was the surgery a permanent fix?

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  7. Soccer the only sport where you spend 300 dollars on boots and bash the ball with your head....

    NFL is possibly the wussiest sport in history.... so much padding afraid of a little pain....Watch AFL or Rugby Union.

    ALthough it is the only sport where someone weighing in at 130 kg can still be called an athlete!

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  8. Anna:

    The bolt area feels partly numb and very weird, but my knee is pretty solid and generally doesn't give me problems, even when it's damp or cold.

    I imagine I'll be subject to the same aging factors as anyone else, but don't expect I'll require additional surgery.

    Aidan:

    Yeah, yeah, I know about AFL and rugby...they're brutal but what those athletes tell me is because they don't wear the padding and helmets, there isn't the same level of disrespect and dirty play.

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  9. Have you seen my post about my knee? I injured it boxing a couple of weeks ago and had a procedure done on it. Now the pain is coming back and it's swelling again.

    I'm afraid of having surgery. I hope I don't need it.

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  10. Yikes! I was cringing and holding my knees while reading this, but it is mind-blowing how far medicine has come with arthroscopic surgery. I hope you and Dan keep all 4 of your knees out of trouble from now on, though. Really cool photos!
    :)

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  11. Menchie:

    I went and commented on your knee post...and said I believe it's similar to my injury, although not nearly as bad.

    I hope you don't need surgery too but if the swelling keeps coming back, I'm not optimistic.

    If you DO need surgery, remember how non-invasive it is now, at least here in North America.

    Hugs.

    Clare:

    Yeah, I hope our knees stay intact too!

    Obviously he's at much more risk than I am, but the fact is, it's almost like your repaired knee is MORE solid than before.

    I hope that's true...

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  12. I hope you don't knee(d) any more surgery, WW. ;-)

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  13. Re: knees v ankles. Yes, apparently. Certainly, I knew a chap who was shoot in the foot.He was a "moving target" which he reckons saved him from worse damage.

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  14. LOL WW @he eats like a horse!

    ** while he has much bigger calves, thighs, hands and probably most any other thing you can think of, my scars are a whole lot bigger than his.

    awww...yes definitely WW gets more sympathy...from Keshi anyways :)

    btw how on Earth did u get such a massive scar????


    Keshi.

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  15. I have a really weird viewpoint on scars - rather than regretting them, I am somewhat proud of them. I still have a wonderful one on my left shin, courtesy of an injury I blogged about a couple of months ago. I also have one on my head, just next to my left eye, which I obtained from walking into a glass coffee table when I was two years old. Another little one is on my first left knuckle from a wart-removal operation years and years ago.

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  16. Laurie:

    Aside from the brain transplant I'm on a waiting list for, nope, let's hope not.

    Dinahmow:

    Was that your Inspector Clouseau spelling, "shoot" in the foot? Glad your friend survived. Yikes!

    Keshi:

    I need all the sympathy I can get! Uh...I got the scars from the ACL reconstruct surgery...

    Stace:

    I have some "battle scar" pride about the scars too, but that area is largely numb because so many nerves were cut.

    I also have a scar on the inside of my wrist from putting my hand through a window and yanking it back quickly.

    And there's the time I put an electric drill bit into my thigh...while the drill was running.

    There are other scars, but...zzzzzz

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  17. ohhh ok. thats a pretty long scar!

    :)
    Keshi.

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  18. Keshi:

    I've got two pretty long ones on that knee and one smaller one...they total about 10-11 inches worth, I'd guess...

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  19. Why should you need sympathy anyway?

    A medical question: Is it what is called knee replacement?

    I don't know if you recall about the dislocation of my right elbow last year. Though it has straightened out, it gives me problem, I still can't lift heavy objects. One good thing is, I use my left hand more.

    How about me getting some sympathy..?!

    :D

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  20. Gautami:

    I don't think technically it could be called a knee replacement because not everything in my knee was replaced.

    But I can't give you a for sure on that. The surgeons described it as an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) reconstruct.

    I've never had a dislocation that I recall, but I know it's a serious injury and yes, you have my sympathy.

    One of the players on our football team here suffered one earlier in the season. He still can't play.

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