On February 22nd 2016, I had my fifth and hopefully final knee surgery. The name of the procedure I had done was a Tibial Tubercle Osteotomy with a Patella Cartilage Transplant.
In non scientific terms this means I had my tibia (shin) broken directly below my knee cap and realigned with screws so my knee cap could track properly with movement. On top of that I had a cartilage transplant to the back side of my knee cap. I had areas of my knee cap that were bone on bone and as a result my knee cap would lock up from time to time. I still remember the exact feeling when that would happen, awful. I spent the night after surgery in the hospital so the doctors could monitor my pain and help me with initial rehab exercises.
I wanted to share this personal piece on my blog because I know there are a lot of athletes who get hurt each and everyday and it is the absolute worst feeling in the world having the sport you love taken away from you. For some of us, in my case, it’s forever. In other cases the ability to come back and compete again is possible, but not without tremendous sacrifice and months of strenuous rehabilitation. My first four injuries/ surgeries I did come back and compete again and did it at the highest collegiate level. That is something I am extremely proud of. The only difference this time around was that I was near the end of my road naturally anyway, I knew I wasn’t going to continue my athletic career after college and I wanted to live a healthy and active life in the future. It was the best decision for me to get everything fixed and healed up in order to be comfortable in day to day life. I have had this same surgery on each of my knees. The first was my left knee my senior year of high school, the last my right, senior year of college.
Since last year I have been working to get my legs stronger and stronger every day. When you have an injury like the one I had, all of your ligaments and tendons are intact but your cartilage is the problem, it becomes very hard to find exercises that will build your quad muscles without irritating your new cartilage. Initially, I couldn’t squat, lunge or go up and down stairs. I had to do strictly straight leg quad mobilities and honestly it took FOREVER to see any definition in my quad again. It was difficult and every day was a challenge but after a few months of the same exercises I could upgrade and eventually started squatting. Each milestone in this process was very emotional for me. I remember crying the first time I did a straight leg raise and wanting to go around showing everyone my simple body weight squat. It’s all of the little things that add up to make you a stronger person after this process. Sure, without awful knees I know I would have accomplished more on the basketball court but because of the trials my knees brought I am the strongest person I know. I wouldn’t go back and change a thing because the lessons i’ve learned throughout this whole process have helped me feel so much gratitude for the simple things in life. I feel I am able to better understand everyone’s individual struggles. Moral of the story here is, life can get you pretty down from time to time but it’s never the end. Make a goal, see it happen and work your butt off to make it a reality. The pits make the peaks that much sweeter.