7 months post op: back to competition

This week-end I played in my first ultimate frisbee competition since ATR. And this was exactly 7 months post op.

Of course, my operating doctor never knew I was going to play. However, it was not only my own decision, as my PT, after 6 weeks of rehab and training, told me I was OK to play. I knew there was still some risk involved, but I decided to play anyway. And it all went well, as I played 7 games of ultimate in 3 days. No discomfort, no pain or anything like it. I only taped it with K-Tape on the third day, for additional (mental) reassurance. Of course, I am not at the same level of fitness as before the injury, but I was performing at my today’s maximum. Overall, I am happy how it went.

Now, I am planning on stopping running for 3 months, as my surgeon advised, to let my hypertrophied Achilles tendon reduce in size. This means more swimming, more stationary bike, more weight lifting and no running and jumping - a longer off-season training this year =)

6 months post-op

July 26 marked my 6 months anniversary post-op! I must admit, I am almost back to normal. Just almost. And  here’s why.

A quick recap. I’ve mentioned it before that I started running and even training with the team and playing some ultimate without any pain just after 4 months post-op. I thought it weird, so I decided to see PT, for the first time. After only 2 weeks into the rehab I did 45 min run on a treadmill (6 km at a steady pace of 8 kph) - no pain or discomfort what so ever - and I was ‘promoted’ to a more active rehab stage with sprints and explosiveness exercises.

I’ve continued training with the team, adding 3 times per week of more dynamic rehab. However, I was surprised I was targeting upper leg muscles mostly - not calves. So, independently from PT, I was working on my calves. I was even more surprised when my PT asked me to do 20 single-leg calf raises (with the other leg bent at 90 degrees in front) and I couldn’t. So now this is my new target - to get healing leg calf muscle more or less in line with the healthy one. I must do it relatively quickly, as I will already be playing at a tournament at the end of August. This means adding a lot of calf raises (pausing for 2-3 seconds at the highest point) to training routines.

I’ve been training without any limitations, doing sprints and pushing as hard as I can. And I am slowly returning my speed. The only thing that is not quite there yet is jumping. I am sort of afraid to jump as high as I can and I’ve noticed that now I am sub-consciously pushing  off with my right, i.e. healthy  leg, while I was mostly utilizing left, i.e. healing leg, before. Let’s see if this changes with time.

I am about to see my operating doctor this week for a planned 6-months check. I should remind you that he specifically warned me not to attempt any running until allowed after that meeting. So my “legend” was I complied with the recommendation. However, all future explanations became unnecessary, as my doctor caught me playing basketball a week ago =) I am still seeing him this week, so let’s see what he says.

To sum up, it has been a very long journey and I am happy to be where I am at the moment. In a week, I am going on 4-5 days long hiking trip, so no more active rehab. But I will continue working on my calves.

I wonder if I should be using Kinesio tapes for training…

Got the Go ahead to return to sports!

I have to share this, as I reached a crucial milestone yesterday - got the go ahead to return to training with the team! Yes, I know I’ve been training with the team and playing a couple of times on grass and sand, but I needed this clearance from an expert.

So, after yesterday’s session with my PT, I asked him when I know I could return to training as before the rupture without the fear, or rather risk, of re-injury. And he just asked me to do one simple test - run on a treadmill for 45 minutes at 8 kph. Even though monotonous running has never been one of my favorite, I had to do it. Most importantly, I did not feel any pain, or even discomfort, in the achilles or elsewhere! That was a great news to me! Especially given the fact that I was working under this program for only 2 weeks. This means that the quality of surgical repair was next to perfect and what I was doing before, on my own, helped me heal quickly.

I will later analyze and share all my path to recovery. In the meantime, I will continue working with the PT, but devoting training sessions to sprints and explosiveness this time - all to be ready to see my doctor in 3 weeks’ time.

What I would like to know is other people’s experience returning to competitive/recreational sports after ATR, especially young athletes. What was your final “test” before you started training at 100%?

5 months post-op

Yesterday marked exactly 5 months after surgery. How are things?

  • Two weeks ago, I started a dynamic rehab program developed by a skilled sports rehab expert. Normally, this would be 8-week program 5-6 times a week. In my case, however, it’s a 4-week program 3 times per week on my own - according to the program developed - and once a week in the gym with PT. At the first meeting I was asked to do a two-leg heel raise and, remaining standing on the healing leg toe, raise healthy leg. And I did! My PT told me I would be fully ready to play at the competition at the end of August, i.e. 7 months post surgery. Even though I might and I’d love to, I doubt I will take any chances.
  • I’ve played several games of ultimate, on grass and sand, by now. Even if I could do sprints - no discomfort or anything, I am afraid/wary to do full-speed sprints. That is why I decided to see Rehab specialist two weeks ago in the first place. I must admit, I stopped playing for the period of this 4-week rehab program. Let’s see how it goes.
  • No limp for several weeks now.
  • The bump is still there, but reducing by the day =)
  • Excited to see my operating surgeon in a months. Intrigued what he will say to my condition and recovery.

That would be it for now. I’ll try to post some pics later.

Great recovery to all!

Week 16

Well, it’s Week 16 post-op now. Here’s the latest update.

It’s been almost 2 weeks since I was finally able to do single-leg calf-raises on the ATR leg! Happened unexpectedly and never left. Happy to be working more on my calves. My healing leg does not get swollen anymore, which gave way to 2 things:

  • you can now see the difference between the two calves
  • you can now see a lump on the achilles

Well, I realize working on the calf-size and getting it back in shape will take more time and I am fine with that.

The lump/bump on the achilles? I don’t like it, as it causes relative discomfort to me. Showed it to my doc and he said it was normal, as that is tendon scar cicatrizing (healing in other words) and the lump will/should disappear. As it is soft, I massage it a lot and it feels better after exercising. But it still pisses me off! Any thoughts?

I am still limping. Don’t like it either as I don’t know why it does not go away. Think about going to a PT for advice. Perhaps I should be paying more attention to how I walk and walk more slowly.

BOSU ball rules! A great tool at this stage of recovery and in general. Works like a charm for tendon stretching and strengthening! there is still some difference between the healthy and healing leg, but the gap is decreasing.

Went rock-climbing on the weekend. Honestly, I did not even think about climbing myself, as it engages toes - hence calves - a lot. But eventually, I decided to give it a try on a simple route and I was amazed! No discomfort at all and I was climbing with no problem at all!

Starting some running, even though my doc advised me not to until 6 months mark. Much smoother and even on a treadmill than outside on a training ground. Will start utilizing treadmill more often. Plus, I think it helps reduce limping.

Please feel free to comment. Especially regarding the lump and limping.

Almost 12 weeks post-op

So, I’m in the middle of Week 12 after surgery.

I’ve been continuing doing stretching and strengthening exercises (with resistance bands) at least twice a day, I’ve been going to the gym 2-3 times a week and swimming 2-3 times a week. Here’s where I am today and what I can now do:

  • Full squat with 50 kg bar
  • Single-leg squat (3-5 times) on the healing leg
  • started doing two-leg calf raises (body weight) and single-leg calf raises in the water

Swelling is still there, but it’s reducing. Limping is still there when walking normal pre-injury pace, but it’s clear to me why - you have to actually do calf raise walking normal stride =)

Other than that, I am planning to see rehab specialist later this week to see what they have to offer. I haven’t made up my mind on whether I want to do “aggressive” rehab or I want to stick to my doc’s plan of “quiet” healing until 6 months post-op. So far so good and I’m loving the rowing machine, which I never used before.

My ATR update: 9 weeks post op

A quick update on the recovery

I am now on Week 9 post-op, with Week 10 starting tomorrow. Last week I went to see my doc and got clearance to FWB, walking with a cane/crutch. I got permission to swim, ride bicycle, which I immediately started doing.

So what’s now?

  • I continue stretching/strengthening exercises at home at least twice a day - when I wake up and before I go to bed
  • I started going to the gym, doing all kinds of exercises, including rowing machine, as well as interval training on basically all muscle groups, but calf-specific
  • In the swimming pool, I swim and do calf raises in the chest-deep water
  • I am still carrying a crutch, walking on the street sometimes. But I am not actually using it. Will stop even carrying crutch starting tomorrow. I have a slight limp, but it’s improving every day. And I am walking my normal stride, more or less. Coming downstairs remains a challenge so far, but I am working on it and hope to be able to do it unnoticeably and without any discomfort.
  • I should not be dong calf raises for another 3 weeks or so. What I do are seated calf raises (weighted and unweighted), as well as getting up on the healthy leg toes and coming down on the healing one. No rush here.

The only thing that bothers me is swelling that I get during the day. While it is minimal or absent in the morning, by the end of the day it gets bigger. However, it is reducing, as far as I can tell, with jacuzzi and sauna after exercising helping quite significantly.

Overall, happy to be back to active exercising. Excited to be able to walk normally, as before the rupture.

I must also mention that my doc told me to not even think about starting running until 6 months post op. Which is not really cool, I must say. Especially as I now know that one fellow ultimate player started a really aggressive rehab program on Week 9, doing all kinds of “crazy” stuff on the healing leg, including jumping and running. I kind of trust my doctor. As I am able to do many-many things in the gym, I don’t expect it to be an issue returning to full fitness once I can start running. What was your experience with this one?

Please also share how long did it take it for you before swelling disappeared completely.

My ATR

So, here’s my brief story.

I’m 33 and I’ve been doing sports all my life. I play ultimate, but got injured playing volleyball, during the off-season.

Fully ruptured my left AT on Jan 24, 2018 and operated on Jan 26. Having spent 4 weeks in a full-leg, then 2 weeks in below-the-knee splint, it has now been 12 days into 2 shoes. I was supposed to still use 2 crutches and step on the healing leg only very lightly, barely noticeably. However, having read a lot about different rehab protocols and weight bearing, at home, I started gently applying weight on the leg - just standing at first, then slowly walking with one crutch - immediately after splint removal. All done with extreme care and without causing/feeling any pain. I’ve been doing stretching and strengthening exercises 3 times a day.

Today, I do completely without crutches at home and I started driving stick one week ago, without any discomfort and strain and I am to see my doctor in a day to be “officially” allowed FWB and start walking with one crutch - my doc does not know about my homework =).

What I’d like to know now is what are the markers for progress. How do I know I can increase intensity/tension etc.? I hope my doc will tell something, as he does sports himself, but knowing other people’s experience, especially in similar to mine conditions and symptoms would be very helpful.

To be continued…