He bent my leg, shook it, made sure I realized it wasn't healthy, and rendered his verdict: If I lead an active life, eventually I'm not going to be happy with my knee and I'll come back for surgery. "You're not a potato on the couch," he said. He even said activities like running and sprinting--which don't involve cutting, pivoting or torquing the knee--would lead to knee pain, an assertion that left me, frankly, surprised and dubious.
My verdict: I'm continuing with physical therapy, and I'm going to see a physical medicine and rehab physician--a physiatrist--to see get suggestions on how to stay active without surgery.
No doubt, my body is conspiring against me. I caught a cold a week ago, which restricted my exercise and even PT; I twisted my knee again two weeks ago in an unlucky accident. (My orthopedic surgeon said a torn ACL used to be known as a "trick knee" that "went out" every once in a while. I've heard the term before.)
I take heart from a 2010 New York Times article, cited originally by in the Just A Thought blog, that cited research saying people with ACL tears who had physical therapy alone had improvements after two years comparable to people who had ACL surgery. The PT-only group had knees that were less stable, but that instability didn't seem to be a big deal. The study authors were quoted in the article:
there is no apparent downside of starting a good rehab program and waiting with the surgery decision to see if it is needed or not.I figure that a physiatrist is much more likely to know what I can do, how much I can do, and how to do it safely with a torn ACL. My appointment is a week from tomorrow; I wish it were tomorrow.
That said, I do feel--and I sweat somewhat saying this in a martial arts blog--for the time being, I must interrupt my mixed martial arts training. I've suffered grievous injury twice to my knees from kicking or being swept in mixed martial arts, and that's a fact that looms very large at the moment.
The thought occurs to me that boxing might be a way of giving myself a similarly intense workout to mixed martial arts, but without kicking or sweeping. It might even offer me a way of continuing to spar, which has challenged and enlivened me in mixed martial arts (though I'd definitely want to talk to the physiatrist about whether and how to do that--e.g., would I need a knee brace?).
I'm facing lots of questions; I don't know where this journey will end up. The next step, when I get up from writing this entry, will be to do another set of physical therapy exercises, and to continue to be patient.