Lets get some things straight shall we? Should a knee replacement cause you to re-evaluate your life goals after your operation or not? In this blog I will discuss this very real question for athletes facing a knee replacement.
Lets start at the beginning. I am not your average run of the mill individual! I have spent a lot of my life proving people wrong when I am told something is not possible, so a knee replacement is no different! I was searching for an image of myself online (that I did not actually find!) and along the way I found a number of other life landmarks that I have actually dismissed along the way, but they are worth mentioning in the hope you can get a wee snippet of what I am like as a person.
Background: sport is not in my background, I hated sport. Neither of my parents were sporty and I did not play sport of any sort when I was at school.
Fact #1 I actually hold two degrees. My first was a degree in music, and my second (this graduation photo) was a Masters degree in Education (Special needs). I wanted to actually go on to complete a doctorate (because Dr Ryding is just way cool!) but my career change came long before I even managed to start this third degree. Hilarious to think now that I am a personal trainer (self employed) and the inclusion element of my special needs background is still at the heart of everything I do. I was the first in the history of both sides of my family to graduate.
Fact #2 I decided to take up Rugby Refereeing in my early 30’s. I was recruited to refereeing from my hospital bed following ACL reconstruction (rugby injury). For my first ever game they also sent a stand by ref in case I couldn’t make it through the whole game! I was a referee for 5 years and became part of the first ever female team of 3 to be appointed to an international friendly. I chose to leave the sport because the prejudice I was facing was preventing me from achieving my goals. Female referees were a rarity back then.
Fact #3 With lack of sporting background in mind, this particular achievement was one of my proudest. Following retirement from refereeing, someone suggested I try triathlon. after my first, my tri club coach said I should try for team GB. I thought this was hilarious! I did, however, get onto the team that same year and raced for GB at world level for 5 years before a knee injury once again forced my retirement. The last race (Auckland world Champs 2012) ended up paving my future path because I fell in love with New Zealand and ended up moving here!
Fact #4: In October 2018 I finally received a total knee replacement. Now I needed a new goal. Someone pointed out the multisport world champs to me, a part of which is a race called Aquabike (3km swim and 120km cycle). What a great goal! So I entered the race in Feb 2020 and am aiming to get fast enough to be selected for Team New Zealand for the 2020 Multisport World championships in Denmark!
Should you let a knee replacement define the rest of your life?
From the start of life, back as far as I can remember, I have never let anyone tell me that I can’t. Women did not referee, so I did. Women don’t ride motorbikes, so I learned how to and bought a Triumph Daytona 955i. (It ultimately got sold in 2009 to afford my first trip to a World triathlon championships!). Noone in my family every went to Uni, so I went… twice! Get the picture!?
So when I was told that I would not return to life as an athlete I was not in the slightest bit prepared to accept that.
I have had to take a reality check though. Because I like big goals instead of normal sized ones, just being able to jog my local park run was never going to be enough. If I was going to run again, I needed to be team New Zealand fast enough. in reality this was never going to happen. So I chose a different goal. I have decided to return to multisport but without the run part.
I had a lot of discussions with a lot of physiotherapists before I found one who shared my belief. I firmly believe that although a knee replacement knee will never be biomechanically the same as the other knee, there is absolutely no reason why it should not be functionally the same as the other one.
So, I have not allowed this to define me. I could have returned to running, I was not told not to. I was simply made aware of what the implications would be for this new knee and that I would likely need revision sooner. it was ME that chose not to return to running.
Equally it was ME that decided to attempt a return to age group level racing at world level.
Will it be easy? no. Will that stop me? Hell no!
DO NOT let your knee replacement define you. Set those grand goals, then go and find yourself a support crew that will help you to get there!