Squirrels and Rabbits

A few days ago one of our black belts e-mailed me to check on how I’m doing and to tell me about about a neighbor’s dog, Susie, who had torn the equivalent of her ACL and had surgery to treat the condition.  She appears to have made a full recovery and is again out “chasing squirrels and rabbits like a pro.”

I was fascinated by the idea that the canine knee was susceptible to this kind of injury and that veterinarians are able to repair it surgically.   (I also wondered if there were any professional canine physical therapists out there.)  I did some research and found that human and canine joint structures are indeed similar, though not exactly the same, and that, for dogs, there are three distinct surgical options. An explanation of the canine knee structure and the surgeries are at http://www.petroglyphsnm.org/caninecorners/aclrepair.html.

Two of the procedures sound similar to human ACL reconstruction, and the third sounds very different. So, depending on what kind of surgery Susie had, her recovery may have little to do with mine.  Still, she’s kind of hero to me, because I imagine her running around in her backyard, throwing herself headlong and un-self-consciously into her play. 

That’s the mental state I’d like to acheive at the end of my recovery, when I, too, am back out chasing squirrels and rabbits again.



Week 4, ACL Recovery

Sore muscles.  After 2 1/2 months of pains and aches only around my injured joint, I have sore muscles in my legs.  Dang, but it’s a wonderful feeling!

The reason,  of course, is PT.  I’ve had weight machines added to my exercises and am getting the chance to work muscles that have been out of commission since my injury as well as a few that I never really worked before (karate doesn’t work your leg adduction much, for instance).   It’s not a lot of weight, mind you.  In fact, it’s an embarrrasingly little amount of weight.  I find myself looking furtively over my shoulder as I sit down at each new machine and adjust the load, invariably downwards, sometimes by as much as 100 pounds.   I have to laugh at myself for feeling this way and for entertaining such silly notions as limping the first few steps from each machine just to make sure everyone knows I’ve got a bum limb and that I’m not really a weights wimp.   I’ve never been much into weight training, but the benefits here are obvious.   I can see how some extra strength and toning work could be very helpful to my karate, so I may try to make it part of my regular routine, whenever it becomes regular again.

Beyond the return of sore muscles, the past couple of weeks have been good.   The knee still feels very tight almost all the time.   But I think that’s mostly that I’m always judging it at the edge of its limits, which are constantly being pushed further out.  (Reminds me of how I often perceive my own progress in karate, during those periods when it seems like I’m going nowhere.) 

My only worry is that ‘bursitis’ afflicting Pacino’s right eye.   I’m not certain it really is a bursitis at this point.  But whatever it is, it sure is taking its sweet time going down and will sometimes even puff up a bit after the weight training.   When it does, it can feel like there’s something stuffed in the front of the joint below the patella.  I don’t like that feeling, but it doesn’t really hurt and seems to go away after a bit.   I’ve got another post-op with the surgeon next week.   I’m hoping it won’t be an issue by then,  but in the meantime, it’s ice, ice, ice.

Week 4 Benchmarks


  • Weight machines: Abductor, Adductor, Leg Press all at about 50lbs (yeehaw) and Hamstring curls at 2.5lbs.  Each about 2 sets of 10-15 reps.
  • One leg balance on mini-Tramp with ball toss (I go into a zone on this one :) )
  • Leg raises (slow descent), 3 sets of 15, 1 times per day; added 2lb weight on day 24.
  • Still doing most of the exercises from Week 2.


  • 130 degrees flexion on day 31.

Walking/Navigating Stairs

  • Brace only when carrying heavy items or walking on uneven ground.
  • Ascending stairs one step at a time, starting day 14 but getting comfortable around day 21.
  • Descending stairs one step at a time, slowly and only after warming up, days 24-31.


  • Depending on the time of day, there’s a .5 cm to 1 cm difference between my two knees, except where the ‘bursitis’ is.
  • R.I.C.E. – still elevating when sleeping and using an ace bandage for compression.  I’ve cut down on the number of full icings but have been rubbing the ‘bursitis’ area with a piece of ice (typically frozen in a Dixie cup) for five minutes every hour or two.

Say hello to my little friend

Pacino, my new scar faceThe Steri-Strips on the graft incision below my knee finally curled off this weekend, unveiling the handsome dude to the right.  He doesn’t seem to immediately click with those around him, but I actually like his impish, lopsided grin and have taken to calling him Pacino. Once he fades a bit and the hair grows back, he won’t be so fearsome and might not even be too noticeable. But for now, he seems to live up to the name.

This is especially true right now, thanks to a bit of stupidity on my part. Yesterday, I was at the gym riding the stationary bike. About half way through my 10-minute session, I got kind of bored and started going through handwork for the first two forms of naihanchi (which my school calls ‘niagie’). At one point I lost my seat a bit and, since I wasn’t holding onto the handle bars, I was forced to seesaw my feet into the pedals to keep upright. Something on the outside of my injured knee did not appreciate this. And sure enough, just a short time after, a focused little bit of swelling started to appear in the skin under one of the scope holes, making it look like someone had punched Pacino in the eye. It’s not black and blue, just noticeably swollen. Apparently, I irritated a bursa. Luckily, it doesn’t appear to be anything to get worried about. In fact, except for the bursa, the rest of the swelling was way down today. Still, I do feel a bit foolish and somewhat chastened. It’s just that kata can be so addictive and my PT fix does little to take the edge off my kata craving. I’m going to have to be very careful in the next few months.

Because of the bursa, we took it easy today at PT and didn’t take any flexion measurements. So I’ll save the end-of-the-week report for the four-week mark.