5 July 2018
In March 2016 Head of Science David was training hard for a triathlon when disaster struck and he ruptured his ACL on the football pitch. He’d always been fit and active, either running, cycling or rock climbing, and when he started working at a new school he joined the teachers 5 a side football club, ‘I thought I was fit enough, however the conditioning you need to play football is completely different.’ His knee hyperextended and twisted, leaving him limping off the pitch.
Thinking it was a bad sprain he visited A&E a few days later. An X-Ray confirmed soft tissue damage and he was referred to a physio for treatment. ‘The Physio assured me that the knee was pretty stable and I would be ok, so I just carried on as I was, but I couldn’t run and I couldn’t swim. Triathlon training was out the window though I could cycle, but it didn’t feel right’. After a few months he persuaded his GP to refer him for further tests and he had an MRI that revealed a complete rupture of his cruciate ligament.
He continued to have physio for four months on the advice of his doctor who didn’t think surgery was necessary, however running on the beach whilst on holiday in Greece he experienced a full knee giving way episode “it was really scary, I felt constantly on edge and very nervous in public places in case I got barged”
His GP referred him to an orthopaedic surgeon where he underwent an ACL reconstruction and hamstring graft.
Recovery seemed to be well under way, when at five weeks after his operation he slipped in the shower and his left knee gave way. ‘It blew up, I felt the graft pull tight and instantly knew I had damaged my knee” further checks in A&E and a consultation a few weeks later and David was given the same advice; “I was told it was fine and stable. But I knew it wasn’t. I was pretty scared as I had gone down this route with treatment. I felt that I had let everyone down. It had affected my family and my work and colleagues. It felt like no one was really listening to me”.
I had another MRI and got a second opinion from another consultant who noted my graft was stretched but didn’t want to operate. I was starting to wonder if this was me for the rest of my life. I wouldn’t be able to play football with my kids or run again.”
At this point David made the decision to explore going down the private treatment route and pay for himself. He went back to his first consultant and asked who the best knee surgeon in the field was. The first name he was given was Andy Williams, a consultant knee surgeon with Fortius in London.
“I researched a number of surgeons online, and when I looked up Andy I found he did lots of the things I was looking for; revision surgery, he was a sports specialist and he also did a variety of grafts. Me and my Mum watched some of his videos lecturing online, and my Mum said to me ‘that’s the guy you need to see.’
A month later and David was in Andy’s consultation room in Fortius Clinic in the City of London.
Before he even examined me, he just listened. It was the first time I felt like anyone had really listened to me
Andy reviewed David’s knee and did some tests, noting that contrary to previous advice, the knee ligaments were not ‘hypermobile’ but that the knee had a greater than usual range of hyperextension, and that there was very clear examination evidence of a loose ACL. Andy agreed that on reviewing the MRI the graft had stretched and gave David two options; either have surgery or continue with physiotherapy. Andy told David that there was no reason why he couldn’t play football or even rugby in the future’. David felt his confidence had been restored, and a future of triathlons and sport was no longer a distant dream.
“I’d like to do an Ironman competition, that’s what I’m eventually aiming for. I decided to go ahead with paying for surgery as I figured I would spend the same amount on training for a triathlon, so long as I was in the centre of my treatment and involved in the decisions then I wanted to go ahead.”
Two weeks later David underwent surgery in central London where Andy did a full ACL reconstruction and a tenodesis to give him more stability on the outer side of his knee.
Andy said of David's operation "it went very well and with David’s hard work in rehabilitation, and no set backs he has the potential to achieve a full functional recovery. Although a return to sport will be possible from 9 months from surgery the fine-tuning always means a full recovery takes around 2 years - a long haul but worth it. Obviously it is too early to make assumptions."
David has since been undergoing intensive rehab on the road to his Ironman …..