Physical Therapy and Fitness by Kate Jay

In February of 2016 I was skiing at Mammoth Mountain when I got knocked out from behind by a snowboarder. At the time he had been GoPro-ing his stunts with a pack of his friends and hadn’t been paying attention to the snowplow-style skier in his upcoming path.

The second that I was hit, I knew that I would not be getting back up. I had heard a pop in my knee and the throbbing began immediately. The snowboarder stopped and apologized (as my husband chewed him out for looking UP the mountain instead of down as he boarded) and a snow patrol officer took a report of what had happened, much like you would during a regular traffic accident.

I was taken by a toboggan down the mountain and began a two-year journey into getting back to where I needed to be in order to walk, move, and function normally. I had torn my ACL when I was hit and had almost broken my tibia.

When I went into the orthopedist he told me that I would first have to decide if I wanted to learn how to live with my torn ACL (and adjust my lifestyle accordingly) or would like to have surgery to have it repaired and deal with a long recovery period and any complications that surgery may bring. I had two children under five at the time and tried to imagine attempting to “adjust my lifestyle” by not being able to run after them should they run into the street or chase them on the playground like the other moms my age.

He said I had time to think about going through with the surgery or not but begin my first round of physical therapy regardless. With ACLs you must begin physical therapy as soon as possible in order to prevent any permanent stiffness and begin to regain mobility and flexibility in the knee. Scar tissue begins to form almost immediately so you need to get the movement going while you can.

I began seeing a physical therapist three times a week, about an hour and a half each session. It was a lot of hard work and days I wished that I didn’t have to go. One of the only cool parts for me was being able to get in any sort of exercise that I could since my injury had occurred. I had been going to the gym about 5 times a week up to that point and used it as a way to destress as well as stay fit. Having been laying down icing my knee for the past few weeks was taking a huge hit on my mood and effecting what my kids were feeling as well.

We worked with bands, machines that measured my balance and finally doing slow peddling on a bike. I began to look forward to small achievements (gaining flexibility by even one or two degrees was a big week for me!) and my time getting off of the couch and out of my house.

After 6 weeks I was off of my crutches and was finally able to walk a bit more stable. I was more steady on my feet. I couldn’t yet carry my two-year-old and walk at the same time but I was no longer in constant pain.

I began to think, “Maybe I don’t need the surgery after all.” Then reality hit.

I was in the deep end of a pool while visiting a hotel, attempting to tread water when my 2-year-old attempted to jump in for me to catch him. My knee wobbled back and forth as I attempted to stay afloat. My two-year-old couldn’t swim at all so I quickly moved both us us to the side and got safely out of the pool. Immediately I knew that I had to have the surgery.

Surgery was pretty brutal and starting all over again with the physical therapy was not my favorite process. But I once again began to take joy in the little goals met. And looked forward to talking with the physical therapists who were so well trained and knowledgeable in ACL recovery.

My physical therapist at Elite Training Santa Barbara became part-coach, part- personal trainer and part-therapist. I had no idea what kind of days these individuals put in. Knowing when to cut their patients a break and knowing when to push them on. They also offer some of the most rewarding ice bags and post-workout leg massages in the world.

It’s no wonder that physical therapy is now a 30 billion-dollar industry. The training, innovative machines, and therapeutic workout supplies are better than they’ve ever been before. More seniors are taking care of themselves and have doctors who are recommending physical therapy than ever before. People are living longer and need to adjust their lives accordingly. Unsurprisingly, there is a projected 5% growth in the physical therapy industry in the next year.

Enjoy my Instagram photo from when I was Toboganned down the mountain! Things are much better now so I feel as though its OK to laugh.