Iron man and endurance runner, Mark
Consultant: Prof Adrian Wilson
Knee sports injuries and trauma
Back to endurance running, skiing, cycling and even an iron-man competition, after simultaneous reconstruction of the ACL and internal brace for the MCL for both knees
Mark had always enjoyed running, competing in local 10k and half-marathons. In September 2013, he thought he would never run again, when he came off a friend’s trials bike. Whilst he wasn’t going fast, he must have landed at a strange angle as when he got up, both his knees collapsed outwards, so Mark knew something was seriously wrong.
Following a visit to A & E and the local fracture clinic, Mark was referred to Adrian. After an MRI scan, Adrian confirmed that Mark had torn his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and his medial collateral ligament (MCL) on both knees, and his right anterolateral ligament (ALL).
Usually, surgeons would operate on each knee separately, allowing a period of recovery before the second knee. Mark has a busy career and was keen to get back on his feet in the shortest amount of time.
Adrian explains the technique he has developed to allow patients to get back to activity more quickly, and allow him to operate on both knees simultaneously: “I have developed the use of ‘FiberTape’, a product which helps to reinforce ligaments and allow them to heal and repair more quickly. In Mark’s case, I used this technique for his MCL ligaments, which would previously have been managed in a brace over a 6 week period, before the ACL was then reconstructed. This technique, allowed me to operate on both ligaments and knees simultaneously, thus allowing Mark to start his rehabilitation weeks earlier than the traditional route.”
The ALL ligament in Mark’s right knee was reconstructed at the same time.
The whole operation took around 5 hours, and Mark was moving around the same day. He was discharged the day after and back to work and driving within a matter of weeks. Getting back to his usual activities took time, as Mark explains: “It took a long time. First re-learning to walk properly, then kneeling and jumping, then eventually running/walking. I had entered the Royal Parks Half marathon in September 2014, but had to pull out – I wasn’t ready (although I was running 5k by then). I went skiing in Feb 2015, 15 months after surgery. My knees hurt, but I managed to ski all day.”
Within 2 years of the operation, Mark was back to running half distances and a few endurance races. He found that having had to relearn to run, he had a better technique, and was actually running faster than before and his knees have him no problems.
A further year on and a friend suggested Mark compete in an ironman competition. This race is one of sheer endurance, tackling swimming, running and cycling over a period of between 9 and 15 hours. This would be a real challenge for Mark’s reconstructed knees.
Over the next 9 months, Mark set to improving his swimming and cycling distances whilst maintaining his running. Over the course of summer 2017, he was training 12-15 hours a week. Race day was in September 2017, 4 years after his operation, and Mark completed the course successfully in 11 hours and 30 minutes.
Mark sums up his experience under Adrian’s care and his return to fitness: “Pretty good for someone who thought that they would never run again! I feel very grateful to Mr Wilson and his team. I was well looked after and informed. The new surgical techniques meant minimal disruption to my life. The repair seems to be robust – over 4 years on my knees are stronger than ever and I am able to subject them to a regime of extreme sports without any discomfort.”
Adrian summarises Mark’s case: “I am so delighted that Mark has done so well – an amazing achievement to complete an ironman course. The new techniques I have developed allow patients much earlier mobilisation, which is particularly relevant for Mark, given his active lifestyle. Operating on both knees at the same time saved Mark weeks in his recovery and allowed him to rebuild confidence and get back to what he loves doing much more quickly. Well done Mark.”