After hearing that Twitter follower was going through an injury that required an surgery I reached out to her in hopes she wouldn’t mind sharing her thought on the entire thing. Here is part one of three blog post series. Hope you enjoy.
On December 10, 2013, I believe I suffered my first real jiu-jitsu injury. However, you couldn’t have told me that the night it happened. I am admittedly a stubborn person. I believe you have to be stubborn in order to train BJJ. You won’t make it to black belt otherwise. Anyway, on the night in question, I was training pretty hard for an upcoming in-house tournament, trying to end the year on a high note. That night, I decided to join in on the MMA Conditioning class my academy had to help improve the conditioning of both our jiu-jitsu competitors as well as the few amateur fighters we have. I was the most experienced person in the class that night, as well as being the only female. For those reasons, I wanted to show up the gentlemen, and prove that I could hang just as well as they could. This was all fine and dandy until we started the sprawl drill portion of class. Don’t get me wrong; I can sprawl as well as the next average BJJ practitioner. However, just like the average BJJ practitioner, I have a strong side and a weak side. For over a half-hour, we alternated our sprawl drills between sprawling to the left and sprawling to the right, and sprawling to the left is one of my weaknesses.
The next day, my right knee was swollen like crazy, and it hurt to walk, but I just figured it was sore from all the sprawling in class the night before. I went to No-Gi class the next night, trained extra light, and chose not to free roll at all since the in-house tournament was the coming Saturday. I iced my knee Thursday and Friday, and when Saturday came, I felt fine enough to compete. I usually only compete against one female in our in-house tournaments, as she’s the only one close to my belt level (she’s a four-stripe blue, I’m a baby purple belt). I knew I could count on at least four good matches from her that day given the two Gi and No-Gi divisions we did. However, she (and unknowingly, our instructor) had different plans. She wanted to compete against the guys, and our instructor had already made plans for us to be bracketed against the blue and purple belt guys. Since I won the first round matches against my female teammate, I was the one who ended up facing the boys. Regardless, I ended up having seven matches that day, three against a purple belt and two blue belt men. That did not do my knee any favors, and probably aggravated what I began to think was a strained quadriceps. Only time off the mats would heal that kind of injury.
I didn’t train for the rest of 2013, and kept putting off going to the emergency room to get my knee checked out. I could walk, (eventually) go up and down stairs, and overall function normally without pain. However, doing any kind of jiu-jitsu was just a no-go. The first class I went to after the in-house tournament was the first Tuesday of 2014, and once I loosened up, I felt as normal as I’d felt since December. It helped to have a training partner I trusted inherently, and who trusted me the same. Still, the next day, once again, my knee was sore, and it hurt like hell to walk. My mother eventually convinced me to go to the hospital after I got off work, where I got an x-ray done. No injuries to the bones were found, but the ER doctor was concerned with the swelling. I was put on crutches for the next four days, given me a brief prednisone prescription to bring the swelling down, and was ordered to see my primary care physician ASAP in case there was ligament damage.
That Friday, during a close examination of my knee joint, both my doctor and I freaked out when we heard an audible click in my knee. At that point, my doctor was pretty sure I had internal/ligament damage of some kind. She ordered me to get an MRI done and referred me to an orthopedic doctor to see what the next step in the process would be. However, one thing I knew for sure was that I wouldn’t be doing BJJ again anytime soon. Still, if you can believe it, I was still under the impression that nothing was seriously wrong with my knee. I had possibly strained my hamstring or quadriceps, but to me, no pain meant there was no injury. With the prednisone, I could finally bend my knee again without any problems, so everybody was freaking out over nothing.
The MRI, though, revealed this: “The only notable pathology is complex tearing of the anterior body and horn of the lateral meniscus.” In doctor speak, I had actually partially torn my meniscus. Again, at most, this meant I’d need physical therapy to make it better, and I could deal with that. So imagine my complete surprise and utter panic when the orthopedic doctor walked into the office, sat down in front of me, and said, “You’re going to need surgery to fix this.” I couldn’t even form a coherent response, because at no point in the past month had surgery entered my mind as a viable solution. I tried arguing that it didn’t hurt, but my doctor quickly pointed out that waiting until it hurt would only make it worse. The final nail in the coffin was when he said I would no longer be able to train BJJ, let alone compete, if I didn’t get my knee fixed as soon as possible. Well, that was that, then, wasn’t it? If it came down to getting my knee repaired and doing BJJ, or not getting it done and never stepping on the mats again, then my choice was made before he even finished his sentence.