Thankfully I was able to enjoy some of the endless winter…and what a crazy winter it was! The snow just kept coming down in Tahoe with Sugar Bowl getting almost 800″ before closing day. After a couple of months recovering from arthroscopic surgery and hardware removal in December, I started inching my way back into skiing by going to the ski resort. I had been doing all the PT I could, as well as hiking and cycling. So by early February I had to give it a try. I’m not a big resort skier but it’s a great place for training and getting your groove back. Those first days at the resort were spent relearning how to ski and see how my knee felt about it. I didn’t have any plans to go into the backcountry this year but if my knee felt strong enough…of course i’d want to go. But for starters i stayed on the green runs remembering how to turn and weight the front of the skis by pressing into the front of the boots. Leaning hard into the boot cuff did hurt, but mostly at the apex of left-hand turns so I mostly slid my turns unless it was soft corduroy. To gain some strength and fitness I took advantage of Sugar Bowl’s uphill travel policy and skinned up before the lifts opened. As I gained strength my knee felt better and only hurt on the more firm and bumpy runs. I knew the bone was all healed but there was some residual edema since when i took my ski boot off there was a big lump at the top of the cuff.
The mental block i thought i’d have went away pretty fast and I could enjoy the runs without worrying about falling, for the most part. It was obvious my knee wasn’t the same as before the injury, and still isn’t. I’d guess it’s about 80% of normal in what it can do. A year and a half after the initial injury I still can’t run, jump, kneel, or make fast starts and stops without bad pain; overall my agility is greatly diminished. The loading of the knee by hiking downhill, jumping and landing, or soaking up bumps still hurts but I’m able to ride my bike mostly pain free. Standing on the pedals hurts so no singlespeeding anytime soon.
Back to the skiing. In March, I felt good enough to venture in the backcountry. Because you never know exactly what the conditions will be, I was prepared to turn around if it looked too challenging – breakable crust, sludgy cement, sastrugi, conditions that seemed like they’d hurt and not inspire confidence. Luckily i found soft snow and did a one and done at my favorite spot not far from where the accident occurred last year. Getting out safely was just what i needed and i even had a few good powder turns. The bounciness of the turns did cause cause pain, and still does, but I’m learning to keep going and that it’s not necessarily causing more damage to move through the pain.
It’s been quite a transition mentally. I ski and ride more conservatively for now. I’m hoping in another year i’ll be happily surprised that I don’t have any pain, but for now i’m learning to live with this new reality. I know many of us have physical issues from injuries or overuse that annoy us every day and I feel lucky that this didn’t happen earlier in life. I hear of skiers in their 20’s having multiple knee injuries and surgeries who will probably have to have knee replacements in their 40’s. The weirdest piece is getting back proprioception – where your brain thinks your foot is in space. My right foot still stands about an inch behind my left even though I feel like they’re equal. I lose my balance more than i used to and overall coordination feels off.
I learned about a place in Grass Valley that does Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections and the doctor is an avid skier so i made an appointment. He ordered an MRI to see what was going on that could be causing me pain 5 months after the last surgery. The tibia is still misshapen from the hardware and healing of the fracture with some lingering edema; mild to moderate chondral fissuring (cartilage damage) along the tibial plateau; my menisci were intact; and the ACL was still partially torn and beat up. Didn’t take much convincing for me to try PRP, I felt it could only help continue the healing process and result in less pain. I thought it was going to be a pretty easy recovery but my knee has been way more sensitive than i expected to where I did very little other than walk my dogs and do easy 20 min spins on the trainer for the first month. I’ve ramped up riding my ATB to a few hours a week and today it’s feeling similar to where i was before the PRP injection. Hopefully in a few months time I’ll have a positive report back on the success of the PRP and not sound so MEH about my progress. But all i have to do is think back to where i was last year this time and dang…so happy to be past that!
The sum of my parts is more than just my body. There were plenty of times last year where I wondered if I’d ever get back to walking let alone skiing. I felt that if i could just heal my knee I’d be happy with doing less “out there” because I never wanted to go through that again. But if I can’t move throughout the mountains freely a big piece of me is missing and my mind suffers. I may not as be as agile or confident as I once was but I still want to be out there because for me there really is no other feeling like floating down a mountain you just climbed. It never gets old.