Sportswomen are up to eight times more likely to suffer ACL (knee) injuries than sportsmen. As discussed in my previous blog, there are a number of factors causing this including menstruation, access to top physiotherapy and rehabilitation, and the differences in female and male body shapes.
I originally got a partial tear in my ACL in March 2013 when I was playing against Sunderland in the league. It was a tackle that came in from the side and I was cleanly taken off my feet. But due to the fact my ACL was stable I was allowed to continue playing after some rehab. I completed pre-season in the summer of 2013 and my knee felt good. In October 2013 I was playing against Chesham in the league and we were winning 3-1. The Chesham keeper took a goal kick and I went up for a header in the middle of the park. I came down and landed on both knees but my right knee gave way and I heard a pop. I thought I had done something but I was stubborn, thinking I could run it off, and tried to play on. My teammate Stef Simmons took a throw-in and threw the ball to me. Immediately my right knee gave way again when I tried to play the ball. At this point I was in a lot of pain. My knee was swelling and I just knew my ACL had gone.
The doctors didn’t operate immediately as my knee was still stable. They wanted me to do eight weeks rehab. After that I managed to get back into training, but as soon I was in a small-sided game situation my knee went again and it didn’t feel right.
Before my operation I was in tears and very emotional. The surgeon said that they were going to apply an anaesthetic into the nerve that runs through the knee, due to the fact his previous patient was in a great deal of pain. I went down for surgery at 8:30am, woke up at 12:30pm and left the hospital at 3pm. When I came around from the anaesthetic I was in no pain at all and couldn’t feel my knee. Today, my knee aches occasionally and swells a bit when I am on it for a long time. And I still don’t have any feeling in certain parts but ten weeks on and, on the whole, my knee feels OK.
Rehab at the moment is strength and balance work for my hamstrings, thighs and calves. I am doing squats, dead lifts and lunges three times a week as well as swimming. My expected recovery time is 8-10 months. I should be able to run again next month and play again in November. I was off crutches a week after my op, mainly due to the fact I hated them. Maybe I was meant to use them more!
I was gutted not being able to play as I was just getting into the season. Football is a huge part of my life but coaching the Charlton Athletic Women Under 16 team has helped. It has filled that gap in my life as it focuses my efforts on training them and watching them play. We managed to come second in the league this season.
I think I am a mentally strong person and I have been trying to look at the situation as though I don’t have a bad knee. All the strength work I do at the moment is on both knees so they are as strong as each other. Obviously when I get back to training my confidence in my knee will increase. However when I get back to playing – until I make that first crunching challenge – I will not be 100% sure what will happen.