What Does 100% Feel Like?

I was talking to a friend of mine at work today when the conversation inevitably turned to my knee surgery and my quest to become athletic once again. He asked me if I would “ever be 100% again”, and I had a sudden realization: I’ve been playing hurt for so long that I don’t even know what 100% feels like anymore. That’s not being melodramatic, either. I haven’t been fully healthy for about 7 years now, and I just got used to playing that way. I think it’s stupid to try to assign a seemingly arbitrary percentage to your health, but I’m going to anyway. If I had to ballpark it, I would guess that over the past 7 years I’ve played at anywhere from 80-90% of my full capacity. Which is strange, because I never really thought about it at the time. To me, it’s going to feel like I’m coming back at about 110% because I’m so used to playing with injuries. Now I’m really excited to finish up the rehab process so that I can see what’s it’s like to be fully healthy again instead of feeling like Jake Taylor every time I take the field.

He's hung over, his knees are killin' him, and if you're going to pull this shit at least you could've said you were from the Yankees.

I had kind of a similar conversation with my surgeon during a pre-op visit a few months ago. He told me he could fix both my ACL and my PCL, but that PCL grafts are usually only about 80% as good as the original (again, a seemingly arbitrary number). I told him that would be a huge upgrade from my current PCL, which was residing somewhere in the neighborhood of 0%, so he shouldn’t worry too much about it.

As far as rehab goes, I’m still doing the same exercises that I’ve been doing since day 1: quad sets, short arc quad extensions, and straight leg lifts. If you watch those videos, you can see that they’re just about the most basic leg exercises you can do. Quad sets, for example, consist of flexing your quadriceps for 5 seconds and then relaxing. But they’re still pretty difficult to do when your leg has atrophied like this:

There's muscle here on the left leg...

But on the right leg, nothing...

My once-powerful right leg has essentially been reduced to the strength level of an infant. All its muscles have just shriveled up since my surgery, and my hamstrings and calf muscles are continuing their downward spiral into nonexistence since I can’t do any exercises for them yet. I’m pretty much confined to just doing basic quad exercises for the foreseeable future. As a guy whose leg strength used to allow him to dominate team dunk contests before indoor baseball practices*, this just drives me crazy.

*There were never any “official” winners of these contests, but I crowned myself the unofficial winner on several occasions. Also, we were dunking baseballs, not basketballs. But they were thunderous baseball dunks.


About Andrew Sacks

I'm a 27-year-old former college baseball player, currently working as a strength and conditioning coach in Baltimore, MD.
This entry was posted in Knee injury, Recovery and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to What Does 100% Feel Like?

  1. AMR says:

    I’m a high school student and I recently had knee surgery. I was interested in looking for more information as to some of the causes that result in having knee surgery. I have found that one of the main causes is starting to be active too soon, thinking that you are 100%. For one of my classes, I’m trying to find out more about this question: What if there was a longer required time of recovery for every knee injury? Do you have any opinions or comments on this question?

    • Andrew Sacks says:

      I think the “required time of recovery” is usually pretty tentative, depending on how fast people are able to recover. Having a rough outline for recovery is extremely important, but I think you also need to be able to let people progress faster if they feel they are able. At the same time, certain people are always going to rush through their recovery no matter how much you try to slow them down. Athletes are notorious for this. I think rather than a longer required time of recovery, a more thorough strength and mobility testing protocol before return to activity would be beneficial. (If your rehabbed knee is not at roughly the same strength level as your good knee, you don’t get to play. If you have mobility deficits, you don’t get to play. If you have significant pain when running, sit your ass down immediately.)

      I think most therapists require your rehabbed knee to be at least 90% as strong as your other knee before allowing a return to sports. If the level was higher, say 95%, it might cut back on reinjury rates. But it really comes down to knowing your limits and returning to sports at the pace that is necessary for you, personally.

  2. AMR says:

    I strongly agree, thank you!

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