Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sound Familiar? Slow and Steady . . .

Not a lot has changed. I continue to slowly increase the amount of weight and reps on my leg presses, hamstring curls and step-ups. But I’m not sure if either really impacts the pace of my recovery. I mean, it does, obviously, because my quad needs to get stronger. But I don’t feel like these exercises will “fix” my knee. The knee just doesn’t feel normal, no matter how much weight I lift or how much stronger the leg gets. Don’t get me wrong -- the knee functions fine. I walk without issues, and go up and down stairs just fine. I just can’t “explode” off it, and can’t even imagine running at this point. For example, whenever I bend past a certain point, the knee starts to quiver, like a car engine struggling to start on a winter morning. Instead of gliding smoothly like a hinge should, the knee feels bulky, like a tennis ball rests between the patella and bone wedge. Maybe there’s a bunch of scar tissue there; maybe I still need to adjust to the osteotomy. Indeed, my shin gets irritated as much as, if not more than, my knee after a hard workout. But the knee doesn't feel right. Sometimes my knee issues remind me of those old school cartoons when somebody shuts down some massive industrial machine by shoving a rod into a spinning wheel. Hopefully, time will heal whatever is preventing my knee from becoming “normal.”

As for non-knee news, I’m a huge fan of the UFC (that’s ultimate fighting; you know, the sport where guys beat the crap out of each other inside a cage). I used to watch the first UFC shows on VCR tapes passed amongst friends back in college. And then I took a break from the sport, before getting hooked again when the reality show – The Ultimate Fighter – premiered back in 2005. The show rekindled my love of violence, and this time my wife got sucked in, too. And by sucked in, I mean, “all in.” I don’t do anything half-assed. Not only did I watch the TV show and the monthly UFC PPVs, but my wife and I plowed through all the old UFC shows we missed over the past decade. And once we finished watching those, we rented all of the fights from Pride, the UFC’s then-major competitor, based in Japan. All told, we must’ve watched 50 DVDs of fight cards. Good times.

The only thing missing was the chance to watch a card live. Usually, the fights are held in Vegas. Over the past few years, however, the UFC expanded and began holding shows across the country. On Saturday, Sept. 19, the UFC visited Dallas. We were there.

Several observations. First, the ratio of guys to girls was at least 300:1. And of the girls there, I think 70% of them were hookers, or were at least open to being rented for the night. Next, the ratio of graphic t-shirts to normal clothes was 743:1. I counted. The ethnicity of the show was striking. White males dominated, with a sprinkling of Hispanics. Also, there were probably more chicks there than African-Americans. But shockingly there was only 1 fight in the crowd. Unfortunately I couldn’t see it because the Jumbotron blocked my view.

The event was loud. I mean, really loud. Almost as loud as the Guns ‘N Roses-Metallica concert I went to back in 1993. The highlight, besides the fights, was the opening video montage before the PPV aired. The AAC darkened, and Baba O’Reilly by The Who started blaring. Then the scoreboard started showing knockout after knockout, along with flashing lights and smoke. I definitely wanted to kick somebody’s ass after it was over.

The fights were fairly entertaining. The last 7 fights – the 2 shown on Spike TV before the PPV and the 5 on the Main Card – all ended in KO or submissions, 5 in the first round. But it was the very first fight of the night that was most memorable. Two relative unknowns fought before most of the crowd had arrived. The stadium was probably 50% full, at best. Because it was so quiet, every leg kick – basically, a fighter uses his shin to kick a particular nerve near the other guy’s knee – echoed throughout the stadium. Holy f*ck. Those kicks pained me. To answer Maximus's question to the crowd in Gladiator, "Yes, I was entertained."

Hopefully the UFC returns to Dallas in the future. The event apparently did well financially. 17,000+ attended, and the event generated the 2nd most revenue ever at the AAC, behind only a Rolling Stones concert several years ago. Beer sales must've been through the roof, and the lines to buy t-shirts were 10-people deep throughout the night. And maybe by the time the UFC returns, my son will be old to come with us. He's a budding cage-fighter. In fact, I keep waiting for his school principal to inform me that he choked out some kid at recess. And honestly, when I get that call, part of me will be proud (assuming he choked out a bigger kid who was bullying people, of course).

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Random Knee Thoughts, 8-Month Edition

My kids are back at school, which is nice. I’m a huge fan of routines and schedules. Other than that, not a heckuva lot has changed over the past few weeks. Well, I am coaching my almost 4-year old daughter’s soccer team, the Rainbow Warriors. Within 3 minutes at practice, one of the girls either (a) has to go potty; (b) complains that’s she’s hot/tired; or (c) wants to know when she can play on the nearby playground. Coaching 3- and 4-year old girls is like herding cats. Rewarding, but sometimes it can be a major beating, too. Go Green Death.

Back to my knee. Using the marathon analogy, I guess I’m at the 16-mile mark. I’ve made significant progress, but then I realize, “holy sh*t! I’ve still got 10 more miles to go. Not to mention that a pack of Kenyans just lapped me.” All kidding aside, the knee feels like it’s inching closer to normal. Baby steps, people. Baby steps.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve stepped up the intensity of my knee exercises. At this point in the rehab, it’s more of the same. Basically, I just increase the number of reps, weight and difficulty. For example, I now do 25 step-ups on a 2-foot high stool with 25 pound weights in each hand, a far cry from doings heel touches on top of a phonebook back when I started my rehab. The gimpy knee remains much weaker than my good one; my quad remains squishy. And pasty. No matter how hard I try to isolate my bad knee, the good knee instinctively compensates. On the step-ups, for instance, the help usually arrives in the form of a small “push” off the floor by the good leg before elevating atop the platform. Luckily, it’s almost impossible to cheat on certain leg exercises, such as the leg press and the nautilus, 1-legged squat machines.

The knee still makes little clicking and crunching noises when I walk. It pretty much has been since the surgery. But it doesn’t bother me. The back of my knee also “pops” frequently, especially whenever I wake up first thing in the morning, or after my leg extends from a hyper-extended position. Again, no pain, but these can’t be good things. The crepitus usually signals overgrowth of the cloned cartilage. While not ruling out overgrowth, my OS noted that the new porcelain sealants usually prevent overgrowth. We’ll see.

The area of my knee that may or may not have a torn meniscus kinda aches, but still hasn’t limited my activities or rehab. I’m hoping MRI, Part 2 will reveal the extent of the damage. In a perfect (surgical) world, my OS could fix the meniscus tear at the same time he removes my screws. I’m not sure whether that’s possible, or even advisable. Or even whether, if the meniscus is torn, that I should wait until Spring 2010 to get it fixed, which is presumably when the screws will be removed.

That’s about it. Pretty boring update, I know. But that’s what you get at 8 months. Meat and potatoes.