Week 10, ACL Recovery

It looks like I am way overdue for a progress report. But a slowdown in PT visits and a scheduling snafu left me without any good numbers to share for the last three weeks.

I’ve cut back physical therapy to every 14 days.  I’m still going to the gym every day or every other day, using the weight and aerobic machines and doing my balance exercises. I haven’t changed much on the aerobic machines, staying on them only about 10 minutes and rotating through the bike, elliptical, and step by days. I have been steadily adding weight on the abduction, adduction, leg press, and hamstring exercises. Too much so, possibly. I’ve had some hamstring soreness, and my PT has warned me about developing tendonitis, which is apparently very common with the hamstring graft. So, I’m going to back off for a bit on the weights and maybe not squat so low on some of my balance work.


I’m still not allowed to run, which is not a big deal for me because I’ve never really liked it that much. But I have started swimming, which is a very big deal because I always thought I disliked it even more. Now, however, I think I like swimming more than just about anything except karate.

I’ve actually been thinking about starting to swim for a long, long time, mainly because the worst part of my karate is my breathing. And what is swimming if not controlled breathing? The benefit seemed obvious, but my last few attempts to swim always ended me gasping like a fish on a sidewalk before finishing even just one (olympic-sized) length. With my knee injured, the challenge, the benefits, the opportunity, and even the necessity of swimming all came together to push me into action. Right now, I’m just doing the crawl, using only my arms, and am focusing on form and breathing (and not drowning). By taking numerous breaks during each session, I’ve been able to go from 1/6 mile to just over 1/4 mile in less than 2 weeks. I’m still sucking in water pretty frequently and feeling that momentary panic, but my overall sensations are of focus, peace, luxury(!), and accomplishment. It’s pretty cool and I’m hoping that it improves my karate when I return.

A fist away

A couple weeks ago, I started using a new measurement for flexion. I found that after exercising and stretching, I could get my heel with a fist of my butt (using the atomic wedgie method). Who needs degrees when you can measure progress in digits? Right now, I can get to within three fingers, after warming up.

Goodbye Pacino?

Well, it’s too early to say goodbye to Pacino. Really, he won’t ever be gone. But he has diminished a great deal recently (though a good shave would bring him back to the fore). The swelling around my knee still ebbs and flows, but it is down significantly, and my kneecap is starting to be its old protruding self again. Especially noticeable is how much that “bursitis” on Pacino’s right “eye” has gone down. At my last visit, I asked the surgeon about it. His explanation was that the scope hole was larger lower down than the visible scar implies and that sometimes (maybe when the patient aggravates it by nearly falling of his bike) that part takes longer to heal. He recommened wearing a compression brace, which I think has made a big difference.

Week 10 Benchmarks


  • Aerobics: Stationary bike, or Elliptical, or Step Machine, 10 minutes.  Swimming, 1/4 mile.
  • Weight machines: Abductor, Adductor, Leg Press all at about 100lbs. (up 50lbs. from week 4) and Hamstring curls at 17.5lbs. (up 15lbs. from week 4).  Each about 2 sets of 10-15 reps.
  • Balance board squats while moving a 4lb. ball side to side, 10-15 reps balancing side to side and 10 front to back.
  • Balance on one leg standing on blue TheraBand pad doing star drills and, starting day 68 leaning forward and touching the ground with each hand. (My injured leg is actually better at this in than my good leg now).
  • Lunges on the squishy half-circle Bosu ball, about 25 each leg.
  • Stretches!


  • 143 degrees flexion (passive) day 68 (compared to about 148 on the uninjured leg!).   I could only get to 125 degrees just using the muscles of the leg itself.

Walking/Navigating Stairs

  • No brace with metal support (except when lifting a heavy object) but wearing a soft brace for compression.
  • Ascending/descending stairs is not a problem.  Can even ascend two steps at a time, but wisdom typically prevents me from doing so.


  • Generaly, the swelling is about 5 millimeters above my good leg.  Much improved.
  • R.I.C.E. – Not resting too much, these days.  Icing at night and if swelling merits. I’m wearing a neoprene ACE brace for compression almost all the time.  And just for good measure, I’m still elevating when sleeping.   


  • Trying to do some kata in my head every day.
  • Using flash cards to keep sharp on what our techniques are.  (I’m supposed to know 15 punching combinations, 15 one-step (block/evade and counter) combinations, 15 self-defense moves, and 15 knife defenses in addition to 16 katas and a good number of kicks.  They can get kind of confused if you don’t constantly do them or think about doing them.)
  • Learned first half of handwork for our third Niage (Naihanchi/Tekki) when stopping by karate class for a visit :-)

5 Responses

  1. Way to go, that’s a ton of progress!

    You’ll soon find that the mental work of memorizing your Niage and kata will pay off immensely when you can begin light karate-specific movements. It’s always a great idea to keep involved in one form or another.

  2. Hey there, I’m a mixed martial artist, that tore my ACL in my left knee while training in Thailand in January. I am four months post-op, and I don’t know if this will help, but it helps me to hear from others who are farther ahead in the recovery period than I am. I can tell you, that I still can’t run or do a one leg squat, but I can do as much cardio as I want and weights, and very mild shadow boxing. One thing is stay positive, there is a lot of research that suggest, ACL injuries and the recovery process are more mental and psychological than physical. You could do a thousand lunges and be down and it will effect your ACL. If you ever want to vent about our ACL miseries, feel free to email me. All my support.

  3. […] and running, there’s not much new to report.  Basically I’m doing the same stuff as as Week 10.  It’s just really a matter of all that stuff a little better, a little longer, or with a […]

  4. Thanks for the tips and support! BBM’s webpage looks like it’s going to be immensely helpful.

    Congrats on the progress, too – I’m hoping by week 10 I’ll be up and running, literally.

  5. May I recommend the book Total Immersion if you want to seriously improve your swimming? I was already an excellent swimmer (love the water, taught kids’ swimming classes), when I picked it up, and I can’t believe how much more efficient my stroke became.

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