12 months post op- one year on

12 months post op- one year on

Set- backs:

  • Knee still feels stiff first thing in the morning
  • Makes squelchy noises when I try to walk on my knees before it’s warmed up. It’s foul.

Previous monthss goals analysis:

  • Continue building strength– record and monitor improvements

Green= achieved    Orange= Meh, kinda   Red= Not achieved

Exercises (per day):

  • 10 x 90-degrees-squats
  • 1 x 5min knee hangs
  • 20 x step ups (on stairs)

On weekends:

  • 5 mins on bike
  • 3 x 10 lunges on right and 10 lunges on left
  • 3 x 10 sec holds of L sit and tucked (on paralettes)
  • 3 x 20 macebell swings left and right
  • 3 x 10 slow controlled squats (ensuring equal weight distribution)
  • 3 x 15 sec holds of heel to butt
  • 3 x 15 sec kneeling stretches- push to sit on heels.

So a full year has passed since I had my ACL surgery. Over the past couple of months I’ve felt like my Jiu Jitsu has progressed to the extent that I’m better than before my surgery now. It has taken 9-10 months to reach this stage but I’m glad I’ve done this carefully and not rushed anything.

Recovery is far from over though. At this 12 month stage, most physios suggest that this is the stage where training can start to be stepped up. Here’s the main areas of progress I’ve made this month:

Strength: When drilling take-downs and wrestling, I am practicing shooting in for the high crotch and then lifting my opponent. The most I’ve been dead-lifting and squatting is 35kg so it’s been good to lift up 75kg people. I’ve felt ok, but I know I’ve got a long way to go. There is still some quad atrophy, but it’s nowhere near as prominent as before (edit- I’ll take some comparison photos and add them to the blog later).

Balance/weight distribution: I’ve spent so much time focusing on where my weight is distributed when squatting that it feels more natural now. Using a mirror to watch my hips and legs in when squatting has been vital. I can instantly see if my weight is shifting to my ‘good’ side, and I’ve been squatting slowly enough to acknowledge that and readjust if necessary. I’m beginning to recognize the feeling of squatting properly again without relying on the mirror to show me visually.


Flexibility: My knee still requires a good warm up before I can reach the same flexibility as my other knee. I can pull my heel to my butt straight away, and kneel sitting on my heels, but it’s tight and uncomfortable. Jiu Jitsu classes are 2 hours long, and by the start of the second class I’m fully warmed up and hardly notice any stiffness or tightness in my knee. I’m also making sure I stretch right after class, which is where I can really push my flexibility further. I can sit in a deep squat with my butt almost touching the floor, as well as lying backwards over my legs whilst kneeling. I don’t notice the squelchy foul noise my knee makes when walking on my knees (that might be because the scar tissue has softened up whilst training, or that the makes absorb some of the pressure from kneeling on it).



  • Increase muscle size & strength through heavier lifting
  • Continue working on flexibility through warm- downs and yoga
  • Build back fast twitch muscles through sprinting/jumping/plyo exercises.
  • Compete in a sub only tournament

My drive to compete and represent my sponsors is very strong, but I’m not going to jeopordise my recovery so far for the sake of a medal. I promised myself I would wait until at least a year before competing again, but that doesn’t mean that on this 12 month I will compete! I’m looking at competing in a submission only event late summer/early autumn time. My biggest love is training Jiu Jitsu and I don’t want to do anything that may result in any more time off the mat. I’ve learned to look after my body more, and I’m aware of it more when rolling. Tapping more often, and being more conscious of my own movements. It’s been, without a doubt, the biggest benefit from this injury. 

And so, here are my final words of advise to anyone who has undergone (or is about to undergo) ACL surgery Well, not so much ‘words of advice’, but more ‘qualities that you should develop’ for a positive and speedy recovery:

  • Acceptance: You need to accept that you’re going to be immobile and shit for a while. Your team mates will steam ahead of you, and you’ll be incapable of training for a few months. But that doesn’t mean you’re incapable of doing everything! And it you work on your exercises, you can be back on the mat within 6 months for light drills with non-spazzy training partners.
  • Perseverance: Through the exercises and the negative ‘feeling-sorry-for-yourself’ moments. You get out what you put in. Your mental approach really can determine your physical capabilities.
  • Selfishness: A weird one! But it’s vital when the time comes to start training again. Have a chat with your coach beforehand, but hand select the people you want to drill with. And do the same for when the time comes to start rolling. You’re doing this for a legitimate reason. Not because you’re just being a prick 🙂
  • EGOLESSNESSnessness..: When you finally start rolling again, you’re going to find yourself giving up positions because your bridging isn’t as strong, or your hooks can’t lift as well, or your cardio might be shit for a while. Sorry, but that’s how it will be for a while. You’re not going to be at your best. So don’t go full force trying to sweep, or maintain a position, as you risk tweaking something. If you can’t pull something off, let it go. Give up the position. It’s helped with my defense massively! Haaa.
  • Consciousness: Not in a weird aura hippy way- but being conscious of your body and how it feels and moves. It has helped me massively as I’m more aware of where my body is, and if my leg is bent/twisted a funny way I’ll just tap rather than struggle to untangle myself. You can always drill an escape to something with the same person after you’ve rolled.

I guess this brings me to the end of my post ACL blog. I will continue to update on my recovery, but on a quarterly basis. I have lots of plans for SHEBEASTBJJ.COM so keep an eye out for details soon!

Final note: I’d like to say a massive thank-you to everyone who has shown me support and encouragement throughout my recovery. I’ve mentioned it before, but the Jiu Jitsu community is amazing. The number of people who have messaged just to wish me well, or offer me advice has been overwhelming, and I’ll be forever thankful. 

If you’re going through the same surgery (or know somebody who is) please point them in the direction of my blog, or any others who have documented their recovery. It certainly helped me to read about others who had experienced the same thing.



South West Open Mat photos: Photo credit to KLBurnard Photography 

17 thoughts on “12 months post op- one year on”

  • Hey, I came across your blog with great interest as I am about to undergo ACL reconstruction next week it was a great source of information to me on how to deal with the rehabilitation. Thank you for writing about your experiences.

  • Hey, I’ve had a ACL reconstruction with the hamstring graft and most of the cartilage removed – Judo accident. Just wanted to say I really appreciate this blog and wish you all the best in your recovery.

  • Thanks for sharing you acl post op recovery! Learned a lot here! Had mine last week and your recovery tips will be handy!

    Keep rolling!

  • I love the blog and the breakdown you did from month to month. I myself trained in Taekwondo and went on to bjj. This is great for those who will be undergoing the same surgery as you. It is great to see that you discussed the the challenges one might face when seeing those who trained with you move on ahead.
    It can drive you a bit nuts when you realize that you are no longer doing things the way you normally would.
    Even getting dressed became a challenge for me. I did, however, find a site that made some clothing designed to help people dealing with a post-surgical lifestyle.
    The name was reboundwear.com
    I am really glad to see that the damage you took was not the end of your martial arts career. I hope that one day I can come back with my legs stronger than they were before.

  • I had on friday a surgery for acl on my richt knee. Every week I practiced 2 times savate bf. I start now with the rehab. Age is 51 sorry I realize it’s gonna be hard. Thans you for your blog with inspiration.

  • Love the blog had ACL replacement surgery 10 months ago.. went thru lots of rehab.. but lately my knee has been very achey and swells hoping this is fairly normal still can’t walk as fast as I could pre injury

    • Thanks for the kind words! It’s a much longer rehab than people realise. Sometimes you might feel like you’ve gone backwards! Just listen to your body and if you’re feeling achey, be sure to get enough rest. 10 months is still early in terms of long-term rehabbing. Best of luck! 🙂

  • Awesome blog!!! I’m 9.5 weeks out from patellar tendon autograft and bilateral meniscus repair. I’m a 46 year old blue belt and all I want is to roll. And compete. And not get out of shape. But I know, it will take time. I’ve started doing some easy drilling from my back and it’s been incredible. Just being in my gi makes everything better.

    Do you roll in a functional brace?

    Thanks again for your story!

    • Hi Sharon!

      I totally understand your frustrations about wanting to get stuck back into rolling. 3 years on from my surgery, I’m glad I slowly got myself back into training. Its not worth the risk of going back to full rolling too soon.

      I don’t roll with a brace. I did for a few months, as kneeling on my knee felt very sensitive. To be honest, I find braces very restrictive and as soon as I had full ROM and the sensitivity in my knee was better, I ditched the knee brace! They are useful to your training partners- they’re a good reminder of which is your bad leg 😉

      Best of luck with the recovery! 🙂


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