It happened again this weekend. After months of running without my knee acting weird, the “knob” came back. It happens when I hit a section of downhill ground at the wrong angle. The knee buckles a little and a knob of bone or ligament… or something yet unidentified… pops out just below the inside left kneecap.
I know why it happens. There is no anterior cruciate ligament in that leg. But when I keep up with strength work, the knee does not pop like that, or wobble around.
Yet there are times when I forget how important it is to strengthen that wambly knee. Then the knob pops back out. It hurts a bit until it works its way back into place. Then I can keep running with absolute proper running form. It pays to pay attention to that at all times, but ranks as super-important when your knees need protection.
It could have been so different for me. Way back in the early 2000s, I sensed that my aging body needed strength work. I’d torn something under my pelvis playing basketball and went to an orthopedic institute to get it checked out. The doctor gave me a cursory, disinterested inspection and told me to rest it until I felt better. Apparently it wasn’t an area on which they could operate, so they sent me home without so much as a piece of medical advice.
But the next time I saw my family doctor, I told him, “I think I need some physical therapy. I keep pulling things.”
He pooh-poohed the idea. “That’s all a bunch of fluff,” he advised.
A few months later, I tore my ACL while playing soccer. That meant surgery and rehab, which taught me tons about the value of physical therapy. I’ve used the same exercises ever since.
And for the most part, that has worked. But when I missed a couple weeks of strength work back in 2005, my leg got weak and I re-tore my ACL. So there’s nothing holding my leg bones in place. I’m a floater, you might say.
The ortho that did my original surgery took a look at my knee after the second tearing of the ACL and told me that I could function decently in life without another surgery. “About 30% of the athletes that get a torn ACL tear it again,” he said.
“Do I get a refund then?” I jested.
“No, it doesn’t work that way,” he laughed.
So it’s up to me to keep the leg strong. I can run and ride and swim fine. Just can’t do ballistic sports like basketball, soccer or tennis. Trying to cut hard might result in a complete discombobulation of the left knee joint.
That’s why I go to the gym to do leg lifts. It helps both my knee and my hips. When I do that work, everything’s fine.
Until it’s not. So it’s back to basics right now to keep the knee from chronically displacing. There is no grinding sensation or other bad signs like the slicing feel of a torn or fragmented meniscus. There’s just this aching oppositional imbalance that I can feel while doing yoga and running. Doing strength work is the only cure.
All you kneed is strength. It’s the first law of athletics, and the last word in knee health.
Trust me on that one.