A ski instructor documents his own ski injury

Skiing after ACL MCL LCL reconstruction

David is a ski instructor by profession, and has documented his own 2016 ski injury...

4 March 2016
Enjoying some skiing in Avoriaz, France when I tripped at slow speed in some heavy snow and fell down the slope. My downhill ski caught up in the snow which, meant my body passed over my knee and down the slope. A few pops sounded - I was hoping it was my binding releasing,  but it was my knee instead!

My knee felt instantly strange, not overly painful, but definitely different.

I got handfuls of snow
and threw it straight down my trousers
and onto my knee.

knee immediately after injury

I waited for a few minutes to gather myself and make a plan to get down. After a while, the snow had made my knee go numb. So, I made the decision to ski down on my other good leg, a run I’d done many times before, but still a long slog to the bottom. After about 30 minutes, I made it to the bottom with a very tired good leg and a sense-awakening bad leg!

I hobbled to the bus and headed straight for the medical centre in Morzine. A short wait and I was in front of a local doctor who gave me an initial assessment and tested the stability of the joint. He advised my season was over and I needed an operation promptly. The x-ray later backed this up and I was booked in for an MRI scan at the end of the week. Luckily, I had an automatic car at the time so, I managed to drive myself to a new medical centre further down the valley and await an MRI scan. A while later, the results were clear - a ruptured ACL, torn MCL and LCL, detached meniscus and bruising to the tibia plateau.

MRI post ski injury
MRI after ski injury
post injury MRI
MRpost ski injuryI

It didn’t mean a great deal to me at the time, but everyone seemed very serious about the whole injury.

10 March 2016
I took up the offer of being repatriated to the U.K. to get an operation booked in. I arrived in the U.K. for some rest and recovery, but unable to get in front of a surgeon for a consultation on such short notice. My initial consultation with a local surgeon was on 31 March, which meant I had two weeks to kill. I decided to return back to the Alps and managed to run a ski teaching course for a group of instructors in the first week and ski with some clients in the second week. I was supported by a K8 Knee brace, lots of pain killers and a cryo cuff every morning and night. 

K8 brace
cryo therapy

A few visits to a great physio at Mountain Rehab, who echoed it wasn’t the best Idea to be back ski teaching but it helped to keep me going for the two weeks I was committed to completing. I called it quits after the two weeks and got back to the U.K. for my appointment with the local surgeon.

Deciding on surgery

Before meeting the Surgeon, I had done some research around rehabilitation time and methods of operation. This lead me onto reading about artificial fibres to aid in the repair of such injuries and speed up the recovery time. My goal was to be skiing by November, so conventional surgery with a lengthy rehab time was not a great option. With this knowledge I met with the Surgeon and expressed my interest in having this type of treatment, full credit to the surgeon who promptly said it’s not the type of surgery he could do, but he knew of a surgeon that did. This recommendation was to get me in front of Professor Adrian Wilson operating at the Hampshire Knee Clinic - a name that came up after lengthy google searches about synthetic grafts and artificial ligament repairs.

I read a few case studies and decided if I was eligible, this is what I needed. So, I went ahead and booked an appointment with Professor Adrian Wilson at the Hampshire Knee Clinic on 5 April 2016. I was still within 6 weeks post injury at this stage and hoping he would take me on. During the initial consultation, we discussed my career, what I needed my body for and future aspirations. Professor Wilson was gauging my suitability, I liked where it was going and after a detailed conversation about the potential operation, I announced I was in and keen to get in theatre as soon as possible. The next available slot was the 29 April 2016, this couldn’t come round quick enough.

A preparatory consultation a few days before the operation cemented my thoughts this was 100% for me, and we went into what to expect in the lead up to theatre, the operation itself and the immediate post-theatre treatment.

29 April 2016
A successful operation and 3 hours in theatre meant It was now over to rehabilitation! An interesting first night attached to lots of machines, compression things on my feet and a Game Ready device (which I grew to love), I was on the road to recovery.

pre-op knee markings
post-operative dressings

I opted to go home the following day, this was a huge mistake.

All the care and attention of the nurses and staff at the clinic were replaced with a girlfriend who was not overly pleased being woken up every 20 minutes because my Game Ready device refilled with icy called water and compressed my knee. The next week was painful, I was topped up with painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication regularly but there would still be times where the pain was quite noticeable.

Rehabilitation

7 May 2016
My first physio session began. It was all about reducing the swelling and maintaining extension in the joint. These sessions were once a week, a painful but rewarding experience - progress was being made.

16 May 2016
A follow up consultation with Professor Wilson was positive, everything went to plan and I had a good look at the incredible work he had done inside my knee through the video he captured during the operation. It was incomprehensible the work that was be done through seven 3mm holes in my knee. Road to recovery involved physiotherapy once a week, a lot of mobilisation and movement exercises 3 times a day at home and a month on the Game Ready device.

1 June 2016
I ditched the crutches and become weight bearing properly and learning to walk again! Conquering stairs normally was still not an option, I adopted a funny old limp on the stairs.

21 June 2016
Another consultation with Professor Wilson. He was keen to check on my progress and check my knee for himself, he was satisfied with my progress and encouraged me towards my goals. Before long the knee was feeling strong and stable, so I began road cycling to aid in mobilisation and the physiotherapy sessions turned into gym sessions. I was starting to get muscle back in a very skinny leg!

By 31 August I was able to do proper deep squats, one of my many sub goals set throughout a long summer of rehab.Before long, it was time to test the knee, I was on skis in Zermatt on 21 November 2016 and the hard work had paid off. I was skiing on a what felt like a fully stable and strong knee. Between then and now my rehab has continued to a point where I feel my legs are back on even kilter again.

I was ski racing in January 2017 and regularly go ski touring so, it’s safe to say to knee has surpassed every test so far.

David Walton brings our readers his own story of when a beautiful day went wrong on the slopes! 

David had the presence of mind to document his knee right on the slopes immediately after the injury. He also kept a diary of his progress, so that you get a good idea of the timing of his surgery and rehabilitation.​


skier


David can be contacted at:
http://d-walton.com

​He is also associated with the British Ski School:
http://britishskischool.com


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