Ben Cairns – ‘How quickly things in professional sport can change – Progress’
Day one post op started with the surgeon’s rounds and, as previously indicated, he was happy with how it went. Before I could leave the hospital there were a couple of things that needed to happen.
Firstly, my leg had been in a splint all night, covered in yellow iodine solution to limit the risk of infection, so the dressings would need to be changed before I could leave. This would be the first time I would see my knee in the flesh since the surgery. My knee was obviously fairly swollen and bruised. There were three incision sites that were being held together by staples. I had two small cuts either side of my knee where they had performed the keyhole and one bigger cut at the top medial side of my shin where they had harvested the hamstring tendons for the graft. It did look pretty bad and although I knew it would, it was still a shock to see it for the first time.
The second thing I had to wait for before I could leave was to get the all clear from the physio. Essentially they need to make sure that I’m going to be able to cope with the surroundings at home before they can discharge me. The physio was keen for me to make sure that my leg was fully straightened when I was lying and although this was uncomfortable over the first few days I knew it was key to maintain full extension in my knee while it heeled. She also wanted me to get out of bed and have a walk around partially weight bearing with the help of crutches. I was surprised that this was expected only a day after surgery and I was understandably anxious about putting weight through my knee but, after a few tentative steps, I realised that my knee felt pretty stable. The sorest pain was from my hamstring which would twinge every so often when I picked my heel up to stride through, but I was reassured that this was normal. We then made sure I was comfortable with stairs and I was given my exercises and medication and was ready to go.
The first week I spent mostly at home. We had recently undertaken a lot of work to the house and a part of those renovations was to create a loft space. This became my man cave. I would get myself up there first thing in the morning and, as well as sticking stringently to my rehab program, I also spent many hours gaming on my PS3 and working my way through numerous TV box sets including every episode of the Sopranos. There was probably a few more productive ways to spend this time but I was conscious it was going to be a long road to recovery with many hard weeks ahead, so I gave myself this time to relax and recover from the stresses of the injury and the operation itself.
My rehab for the first week consisted of:
Seven exercises to perform three times daily all for twenty repetitions
- Feet paddles
- VMO tensing (pushing my knee into the ground)
- VMO tensing with leg lift and hold for 5 seconds
- Heel slides (bending knee through comfortable range)
- Foot pumps with Theraband to provide resistance
- Standing leg raise bringing my right leg behind
- Standing leg raise bringing my right leg out to the side
I also used a couple of gadgets to help aid my recovery. The first was a Game Ready machine, which is essentially an icing machine but allows you to set the parameters for this including time, frequency and compression, all of which are vital in helping to reduce swelling as quickly as possible. I used this around six times daily for twenty minutes at a time. The second was a Compex unit which is a muscle stimulator. It uses small electrical pulses to contract your muscles for you. This helped keep my quad muscles in as good shape as possible while I wasn’t able to fully weight bear. I started using this once a day, beginning on the third day after my operation.
The first week post op was possibly the most tedious period throughout. My knee was still pretty uncomfortable for the first couple of days to aid with the pain and swelling respectively. For the first three days I had a to wear a splint, only really taking it off in to perform my rehab, and I wasn’t really able to sleep on my side (as I do usually) so my quality of sleep wasn’t great.
Day four could not come quickly enough. I got rid of the splint and replaced it with just a tubigrip to keep on top of the swelling, as well as having to wear a brace if moving around to protect my knee. My main pain at this point was still my hamstring, I was still getting the odd twinge when I stretched first thing in the morning and tensed my leg and still had a lot of pain in the back of my knee on the medial side.
I was still on crutches for a while longer but I now felt more comfortable weight bearing fully through my right leg. My quad wastage was pretty significant but I was confident that this would come back fairly quickly. The swelling continued to reduce and I was able to get more range through my knee, the incisions were also healing well. Progress!
Until next time…