Hitting the Knuckle: From Injury to Recovery – Stay Positive


Injuries…It can happen at any time, especially with the nature of action sports — you never know what might happen off the next jump, rail, coping, or berm. I consider myself very lucky that I am able to snowboard after 26 years of jumping, hitting knuckles, smashing my body on rails, and tomahawking down a steep chute every once in awhile. Which is not to say that I haven’t had a few injuries along the way, including broken bones and ultimately a knee injury that changed how I look at life and snowboarding. It’s been almost 2 years since I hit the knuckle of a jump (shown in the image in this post), and the impact caused serious cartilage damage, which ultimately lead to my 1st knee surgery to date. I wasn’t aware of how badly I had injured my knee, and it was after several doctor visits, x-rays, and an MRI that the reality started to set in. I kept exercising as much as I could despite the pain I was in.

Two weeks after the injury I was able to visit a surgeon and the reality of my situation came to light. I was prepared for a torn meniscus or ACL or MCL, with a 6 mo. recovery time. Finding out I suffered a unique injury was humbling to say the least. Finding out that I would require 2 surgeries in the span of 6 months and recovery time could be 1.5 years after the final surgery was pretty daunting. I wasn’t prepared for the diagnosis and was in shock. I was in disbelief that the first surgeon disregarded my inquiries as to how long I would have to be off snow and not be able to exercise; he didn’t seem to understand the passion I have for snowboarding, skateboarding, fly fishing, hiking, mountain biking, and really just being outside, and how greatly this would effect me mentally and physically. The surgeon said I shouldn’t worry about it and that I had no other options. I left feeling depressed, confused, and in need of a 2nd opinion.

2nd Opinion

My wife is the light in my life and truly kept my spirits high during this time, and we researched other surgeons, facilities, and got recommendations from a great friend for Panorama Orthopedics in Denver, CO. As it turns out, the 2nd opinion was in line with the first, yet I found solace in the way I was treated by my 2nd surgeon, Dr. Johnson. I decided to go with him as he understood my lifestyle and how important this was for me to get back out there. He’s top notch, an amazing surgeon, and really cares about his patients. I felt confident he would take care of me, and he really did an amazing job.

My arthroscopic surgery happened in May, 2013. The surgeon removed 45% of my lateral meniscus and left me with a 3cm by 3cm lesion on my femoral condyle. I had hope that they may have been able to perform a microfracture technique to help promote the growth of cartilage, but my defect was too large for the procedure, as I was informed after the surgery. They harvested my cartilage, and it was shipped of to a lab where it can be grown to match the size of my defect if/when I choose to have the 2nd surgery, this 2nd surgery would require a full year worth of recovery if all goes well. It’s a pretty brutal surgery, and I won’t go into detail, but it’s called OATS, or Carticel.

Recovery : Physical Therapy, Mental Toughness and Dedication
Following my surgery, I was up and walking on my knee almost immediately, due to not having the microfracture procedure. PT was tough, as my leg had atrophied some, but I stuck it out I ended up having 6 PT sessions over a span of almost 2 months. It’s amazing how much effort it takes to retrain your body, and I learned some great exercises to help me prevent injuries going forward as I age in an action sports lifestyle.

1. Balance – Bosu Ball or Swiss ball (there are many techniques to gain balance for one or both legs and your core)
2. Core – Planks, wall sits and other core exercises are a must
3. Stretching – Quads, hamstrings, calf, everyday, and yoga is your best friend, try a class today!
4. Foam roller (legs and lower back) – Every day, it really works and I’m hooked!
5. Weight training – Still is a must for upper and lower body 3-4 times per week
6. Cardio – Get outside on the bike and pedal! Also I stick to the stationary bike and elliptical indoors, but do try to do at least 20 minutes 5 days a week
7. Mental toughness is key – Stay positive, it can be a long road, just remember that it’s going to take time for your body to heal, listen to your body and your injury. If it hurts don’t do it.

It was almost 3 months of taking what I learned from my PT and my own exercise regimen that I started to make bigger strides and was riding my longboard around the neighborhood. In the fall, I started skateboarding again at our local park. I finally got a custom built brace from Don Joy for my injury, which is now a part of me whenever I go snowboarding to prevent me from doing further damage; it keeps me in check and is a constant reminder that I need to take proper care of my body, especially since I’m not getting any younger.

It’s been almost 2 years now and I have not had my 2nd surgery, which is not to say that it won’t happen sometime. I can still do almost everything I did before and I’m in better shape now than I’ve been in years. I just won my 6th USASA National Championship title for Slopestyle and Halfpipe for my age group, which was a huge achievement for me, and a goal I set to accomplish early on after my injury. I believe you can always learn something from an injury, and this chapter of my life is not over yet, for me it’s all about knowing I’m taking the proper preventative steps to keep me progressing forward and not giving up. If there’s one thing I really want to pass on it’s to stay positive and don’t give up!  An injury can be overcome, and you’ll come out stronger, more knowledgeable, and humbled afterward.