Preparing for surgery
In issue 16 of Jiu Jitsu style, I wrote an article entitled “Staying sane whilst injured”, an assortment of suggestions on how to keep busy when injured. Unfortunately, my injury has resulted in me needing surgery in the form of a full ACL reconstruction. So here is part 2 of that article; “How to stay sane when recovering from surgery”.
Despite initially presuming I would have a hamstring graft, I will actually be having a patella tendon graft. Literature suggests that a full recovery can be expected 8-10 months post- surgery. Yet, I have spoken to training partners who have rehabbed their way to a full recovery within 2-3 months. There are a number of factors which can influence recovery time, and I have done my best to tackle these in order to achieve as thorough recovery as possible. I have been following the assortment of movements suggested to me by my physiotherapist, in addition to that I have been focusing my prehab training on;
1) Building mass in hamstrings
2) Building strength in quads and hamstrings
The aim of this is to ultimately improve stability within the knee. The reconstruction will account for about 60% of the stability with the other 40% coming from how much I put into strengthening the muscles and ligaments around the knee. I have been functioning without an ACL since July of last year and the only moments I forget I don’t have one is when I go “bambi- legged” when changing direction whilst walking, or when I try to lift heavy weights.
Whilst there is a noticeable lack in my performance regarding lifting heavy, the injury itself has not inhibited my ability to lift in general. Deadlifting and squatting (along with the bench press) are considered to be the staple movements of a grapplers strength programme, and they are the 2 movements I have based my prehab around. The gaining of muscle mass is to accommodate for the loss I will experience post-surgery (whilst not being able to train). Whilst I acknowledge that muscle wastage is inevitably going to occur, I am doing all I can to bulk up a bit beforehand. I work way too hard to have chicken legs! The more muscle I have, the more I’ll be able to move my leg. The sooner I’m able to move the leg, the faster I’ll be able to do my rehab movements, and the sooner I can do those, the sooner I’ll be recovered (at least, that’s my thought process!).
The building of strength is to assist with recovery. ACL reconstruction rehab is incredibly intensive, therefore the stronger the ligaments and muscles around the knee are, the more successful the recovery. This kind of links in with the increasing of muscle mass in general.
A focus on diet is vital, not only after the surgery but building up to it too. I have focused on increasing my lean sources of protein and healthy fats, as well as eating a high amount of leafy green vegetables. I adhere to a Paleo style diet, so this has felt like an adaptation to my current diet rather than a drastic change. Protein obviously helps with muscle growth and recovery and a considerable amount of muscle wastage can be expected post- surgery. The faster I can build that muscle back, the better! Some pre-surgery supplements I have been advised to consider are glucosamine and chondroitin capsules (glucosamine being a structural component within joint tissue, and chondroitin being major component of cartilage). Both supposedly help with recovery. Shifting the focus from eating food for primarily enjoyment, to eating food to fueling and healing your body is something the Jiu Jitsu lifestyle promotes. The severity of this injury really has forced me reassess my approach to healthy eating. Every cloud and all that (!)
Whilst it may be hard to keep yourself physically busy, it is imperative that you keep yourself mentally busy. Preparing for this is what I have found most daunting. Much like when initially injured, creating a to-do list for the first few weeks in an attempt to keep the withdrawal symptoms away is what I recommend. As the recovery time will be much longer this time around, here is my modified and updated list;
1. Producing mini Jiu Jitsu documentaries: This is something I have a massive interest in. By “massive interest” I mean, I fully geek out over it. I have a bunch of ideas to keep myself busy for a while, like focusing on particular training partners (possibly as a training tool for them to refer to), belt grades at the gym or perhaps looking at a particular technique being taught. It is important to have the determination to keep watching and learning, despite not being able to participate, and that is going to be really mentally tough. Geeking out over these videos will either pump me up, or massively deflate me. I’ll let you know which one in a few months time..!
2. Writing lots more articles: I’d have more time to focus on my Jiu Jitsu style articles and my blog. Another way of keeping my attention on Jiu Jitsu and the goings on within the UK community.
3. Living right by the beach, I am an avid water sports enthusiast. Wakeboarding, surfing and stand up paddle boarding are all activities I can slowly start to get back into. Especially the stand up paddle boarding, which is low impact and great for core body strength. (I’m prone to the odd face plant whilst wakeboarding, so that may have to wait a while longer). The point is, there are other hobbies and activities you can redirect your obsession onto, in order to keep yourself active and in shape, and to prevent you from turning into a couch potato.
4. Family: I know my family would appreciate to see my face a little more. Family time is important, and they can often take a backseat when it comes to training. You can show them some much deserved appreciation and attention whilst you’re recovering.
There will be a time when you will want to slowly reintegrate back into the class. At that stage you will need to assess what you are capable of, whether that be assisting with the beginners/juniors class, or even the possibility of drilling techniques with very carefully considered partners. When reading literature online, the recovery times for this kind of surgery are so varied. One thing is for certain though; listening to the advice from your surgeon and your body.
I for one am going to be dying to get back onto the mat, but I will not do it a day too soon. If my body needs a few months to heal, then so be it. Do what is best for your body in the long run. Your time training Jiu Jitsu is a marathon, not a sprint.