by Tommy Crowe | February 8, 2018

Knee Rehabilitation From A Wakeboarders Perspective

The adrenaline rush of extreme sports has always drawn me to them. I started snowboarding and skateboarding at 8 years old and began wakeboarding at around 12. If it has to do with riding a board, you can most likely count me in. Unfortunately, with this love of extreme sports comes the inevitable possibility of injury. Scrapes, bruises, sprains, concussions, and broken bones were a fairly normal thing growing up. And then came the knee injury.

You’d think the water would be a relatively safe place to land the types of “tricks” we learned to do competitively in wakeboarding, like spins, grabs and inverts/flips. But when you launch yourself high enough into the air to be able to do a flip or spin, the landing is not necessarily soft and cushy and your knees bear the brunt of the impact when you’re trying to stick the  landing.

 

I began to feel the effects of these landings on my knees after about 5 years of practicing 3-7 days a week. At first it was a slight discomfort about 10 minutes into my riding session; gradually the pain progressed to the point it was causing significant pain and sending a sharp pain up my spinal cord every time I’d land a trick. My leg would lock up after landing, leaving me no choice but to sit in the water until my knee would “unlock” itself, usually after about 15 minutes. At that point I knew it was time to have a professional check it out.

I headed to a respected local knee surgeon and explained my situation. He determined I had a sliced meniscus, and that a portion of the meniscus was sliding to the front of my knee causing it to “ball up” there. This was causing my femur and tibia to actually touch briefly, setting off the sharp pain and “locking up” sensation. I was scheduled for surgery the following week.

Right after the surgery I was given initial exercises to do and scheduled three or four physical therapy appointments. I regularly did the exercises, went to the appointments, and followed the instructions given to me. At week 6, I walked into a scheduled follow-up appointment with my doctor. He took flexion and extension measurements, asked me a series of questions in regards to my recovery and then informed me I could return to wakeboarding whenever I felt comfortable doing so.

I should have been excited about this news, but instead I was hesitant.  How could I be ready when my knee still felt so stiff? The doctor had also told me to take it easy and slowly progress my level of activity until I felt comfortable returning to a 100% activity level. But how could I be sure I would really know when it was okay to increase my level of activity? And I was even more unsure of my mental readiness. Would I ever be able to land the tricks I was doing before the surgery? Would I always have discomfort or pain? What were my chances of re-injuring my knee?

Despite these concerns, I transitioned back into wakeboarding. I began slowly and gradually and whenever I felt pain I would drop the rope, pull my board off and be done for the day. After about 2 months I’d returned to about 90% performance level, but continued to have some swelling and discomfort.

Fast forward to about 3 years later. At this point, I’m at my highest level of wakeboarding capability. I’m riding roughly 3-4 times a week even though general knee pain has become the norm after riding. Some friends and I decided to take a trip to Lake Cumberland, a massive natural lake in Tennessee where we could always find smooth water. I strapped my board on the first day, hopped in the water, and the conditions were PERFECT. I did some basic grabs, progressed into some spins, then worked my way into some flips. One of my go-to flips was a toeside front roll. I loved it because this was the trick that I could cut into the wake my hardest and send myself soaring through the air. On this particular run, I hit the wake perfectly, tucked my body and initiated the front flip motion. When I landed, my tibia and femur rubbed together in such a way that it caused my tibia to fracture. For this injury, surgery wasn’t necessary but I was told to stay off of the water for a month or two until the pain subsided. My season was over for the year. The injury eventually healed, but I haven’t been able to execute a toeside front roll since because I’m not comfortable physically or mentally when it comes to this trick.

When Dan Fisher came to me with the concept to create a recovery software that would help those facing knee injuries feel aware of their recovery, I was instantly intrigued. I came on board with RecovAware because based on my past injuries, I truly see the value in providing users the ability to track and understand their progress over the course of their recovery. Instead of guessing how their pain levels were during a specific activity a couple of months ago, what if they could provide real data from that specific day? They’re no longer providing a guess of how they were feeling that particular day, they can go to that day and give a doctor or physical therapist factual information.

This app also allows doctors and physical therapists to have a more in-depth understanding of what their patients’ activities are, how frequently they are performing them, and see their progress relative to pain, range of motion, and mental readiness with ease. Meanwhile, Recovaware immerses users in their recovery by allowing them to understand their progress, build confidence, and feel motivated in their results. RecovAware is an app designed to help users feel not only physically ready to return to their sport of choice but also mentally ready — and that’s why I’m all in on RecovAware.

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