Recovering from a Meniscus Tear: A Non-Athlete’s Experience and How I Bounced Back

Recovering from a Meniscus Tear

“Confidence is the feeling you get before you understand the situation”-Anonymous

If you told me 10 years ago, I would be a snowboarder, I would have laughed in your face, right after making sure that you weren’t blatantly mocking my athletic ability (or lack thereof).  Although I do enjoy being active, sports have never been my specialty.  The peak of my athletic glory was the high school swim team.  Therefore, when invited to play on a softball rec league, or run the 5K du jour, you can count on me to be the first one to offer up an excuse to refrain.  But 8 years ago when my boyfriend (now husband) asked me to go snowboarding, I was all in.  Sure, I wanted to impress him, but I realized this was an opportunity to try something completely out of my element.  I also wanted to impress myself. What better way to test my inner athlete than by soaring downhill with your feet strapped to a board?

About half way up the ski hill (yes, a hill…in Wisconsin), I realized this may be a really bad idea.  But it was too late.  My daydreams of gliding down the hill effortlessly jilted violently to the harsh reality of simply getting off the lift.  It all happened so fast, but before I could even catch my balance, I was lying on top of the hill with one leg in front of me and the other leg, weighted down with the board and twisted behind me.  I was licked before I could even start, and the only thing that hurt more than my left knee was my pride.

After a visit to an orthopedic surgeon, an MRI and 2 days on the couch, I was diagnosed with a torn meniscus.  Not a super serious injury, but one that would require lots of rest and rehabilitation.  I was prepared for a few weeks of discomfort.  What I wasn’t prepared for was how fast the muscles in my leg atrophied, and the amount of physical therapy it would require to regain the stamina I had only a week earlier.  I went to physical therapy twice a week for 8 weeks, all because I tripped over my own snowboard.  But this is my point, serious injuries can happen to anyone, not just to the extremists, or the super-skiers who tackle the black diamonds.  My injury taught me a lot not only about my physical limits and abilities, but also what I was capable of mentally.  Here are a few take-aways I learned from my injury:

Trust what your body is telling you.

As much as I wanted to tough it out and save face, my instinct was telling me it was a bad idea.  Had I chosen to walk down the hill rather than seek assistance, I probably would have done further damage.  We only have one body and we know it better than we think.  Listen to what your body is telling you. And when in doubt, don’t do it.

If you are prescribed physical therapy, stick to it.

Physical therapy wasn’t a picnic.  It hurt, a lot.  But 15 minutes twice a day of doing the prescribed exercises was a small price to pay in retrospect.  Each day my pain decreased, and the strength in my leg increased.  Injuries that are not properly addressed may not heal correctly and may result in long-term restricted mobility or in a recurring injury.

Don’t let it go to your head.

By far my greatest challenge in recovering from my fall was recovering from my fear of reinjury.  I was so afraid of falling again. What if I hurt my other leg?  What if this time I break something, or tear something worse?  It’s important to know that these feelings are valid.  It may take some time to muster up the courage to “get back on the saddle” so to speak, especially if your injury occurred while trying something new.  It may take time to regain confidence, but know that it will happen with time.

One year after my injury, my husband took me snowboarding again, on a real mountain!  I’d be lying if I told you I was more excited than nervous, but I was ready to give it another go. Let’s be real; I’m far from an expert and plan on leaving the rails and jumps to those 10 years my junior.  But, I am so glad I discovered a new sport that I really love, that challenges me and inspires me physically and mentally, even if we did get off to a less than inspiring start.

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Written by Susan Madden: Member, Mom, and Guest Blogger

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