Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Investment

In late 2001 I snapped the anterior crusciate ligament in my left knee. I was sparring with a kickboxing instructor named Bertram who was basically kicking my ass. When I tried a roundhouse kick,  I kept my entire left foot on the floor instead of balancing on the ball of it, and the strain snapped the ACL. There was a "crunch" noise and I signalled to Bertram to stop beating me, then hobbled off the mat in order to soothe my sore appendage.

Next day the knee was horrendously tender and swollen to the size of a small grapefruit. I didn't know what was wrong and simply waited for the swelling to go down and then strapped the leg up and carried on. Months later I was told that I had almost certainly snapped the ACL and while I didn't think much of it, as the knee was 'manageable' and the pain almost non-existent, I found out in 2004 that this was a much bigger deal than I'd imagined.

I applied for the City of London police Special Constabulary (volunteer cops) and was rejected on medical grounds due to declaring the knee injury. The force medical officer was polite and to the point, and said that if I'd waited to apply in 2005 it wouldn't matter as new laws were coming in that would make it wrong for them to reject me on these grounds. the old rules applied and she reluctantly had to say no to my application. I asked if I could be allowed an appeal, if I could get the knee repaired. She said yes.

So I went back to the doctor and began the long process of consultation, MRI scan and visits to a specialist. After several months I was booked in for an operation and spent the night in a hospital bed, in preparation for my early morning op, kept awake by two old men squabbling in the adjacent beds. Morning came and the anaesthetist arrived to prep me for my time under the scalpel. Then he told me to put on a backless gown and wait. An hour or so later the consultant surgeon arrived (a man I had only glimpsed from afar up to this point and had always been seen by his underlings). He breezily asked me to swing my legs up on the bed. I'd had the foresight to keep my undies on, despite being told not to, which was a good job as he was with two junior, female doctors. To make matters worse, one was very pretty. He then proceeded to twist and manipulate my lower leg, regularly asking "Does this hurt?" When he realised it didn't he then said "Leg's healthy. You don't need the operation. You can go home."

Overjoyed, I sped home and sent the forms off to the COLP medical officer who then accepted me as healthy, I got interviewed, accepted and joined in October 2004


It turned out that far from what I naively believed had been a case of 'self healing', the leg muscles around my knees had simply grown bigger due to the amount of cycling I was regularly doing in London. The ACL was still broken but, like having a strong set of core muscles in your belly, all that exercise meant that the knees were now having the majority of the strain on the surviving ligament, dealt with by the increase in muscle.

Years later and the knee still twinged. Like tectonic plates grinding into each other, the knee cap would rub into other bits and acidic, sharp pain would shoot up my leg. I was rejected by both the Territorial Army and the RAF Reservists on my paper applications, without even being seen, solely due to the ACL damage. Both said "Get it repaired, then reapply after 18 months."

In Krav training I would have to wear not one but two knee supports on that leg and also take a shit load of painkillers after gradings, due to the soreness and swelling after 4 hours of beasting, with at least 30 minutes of full on sparring to top it all off. I couldn't sit on my heels when I knelt down. I was advised in the strongest possible terms by a knee specialist that I NOT go jogging. The impact would cause inflammation to the knee and put me back. Cycling was fine but running, which I love, was out.

This year I decided what I really want to do is be fully fit again. I want to run, jump and twist without fear of having to open the Ibuprofen. I want to grade in Krav Maga without fearing that someone will boot me in the kneecap and send me howling to the floor. I want above all to be a Fast Defence instructor with Wayne Hubball in 2016.

I went for another MRI scan on my knee a few months ago after referral from my local doctor. I then got to Warwick Hospital to see a consultant. They put me on a waiting list and last week told me that my operation to repair the ACL will happen on the 25th of August 2015. Convalescence time is 6 months, meaning no Krav for that entire time.

This dictates that I will miss both chances to retest my P5 exam in October and December. I will miss shit loads of training and also the seminars run nationally and by my own club Krav MagaMidlands. Guys who are currently P3 will be probably taking their P5 the same time as me. Guys who are currently P4 could well be taking G1.

But....the light at the end of the tunnel is that I will come back fitter, healthier and with more endurance. Things I cannot do now without pain and physical instability will be much easier to perform. I will be able to fight without the paranoia of wondering if my knee will get hurt during the kicks and punches, takedowns and ground work.

It's an investment and one I wish I'd taken a long time ago

Short term gain gives short term pleasure. One thing Krav Maga has taught me is that sometimes you need to be patient and put your ego and desires to one side in order to be all you can be.

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