How I went from a Ninja Warrior to a Couch Warrior and back in 10 months.

Part 1

May5thTornpatellarKnee Illustration

On Saturday, May 5th 2018, I ruptured my patellar tendon, shearing it clean off of my tibai (shinbone) while navigating a Ninja Warrior course at an indoor trampoline park in Orland Park Il. My wife, daughter and I were there celebrating my son’s 10th birthday along with seven of his friends. While pushing off side to side on the 45 degree angled slant boards I heard a loud pop that vibrated through my whole body followed by instant shooting pain in my right knee then my right leg gave out. My body bounced off one of the 45 degree angled platforms, and I fell eight feet down into an inflatable pit. I won’t bore you with the following 45-minute ordeal which required six huge firefighters to stabilize my body so they could lift me out of that pit and get me into the ambulance.

As I lay on my back clutching my right knee to keep it stable, and to minimize the excruciating pain, I scrambled to pull my wits together. I immediately started deep and controlled breathing to manage the pain while trying to get my wife’s attention without causing any concern to my kids or their friends. Finally, my wife noticed me at the bottom of the pit and in a calm voice I informed her that had I seriously hurt my knee and she needed to get the staff to call an ambulance and get me an ice pack. I encouraged my son, daughter and their friends to continue playing but Will and Lily wanted to sit next to me in the pit until the paramedics showed up. They stayed with me until I was lifted out of the pit, put on a stretcher and taken to the ambulance. My kids and their friends were all concerned and thoughtful. It reinforced that as parents Peg and I are raising them up right so far. For 120 minutes I clutched my bent right leg to support it, and the extreme pain never subsided. Finally, the doctor on duty at Palos Community Hospital wanted to straighten my leg out to assess the damage but I wouldn’t let go of it. The pain I knew was better than the pain I didn’t know, so the doctor gave me a shot of morphine and my body turned into jelly. The doctor did straighten out my leg then got me to the x-ray lab. The x-rays confirmed I had a ruptured patellar tendon and that I needed surgery. The doctor said he could schedule the surgery for that night. I was still high on morphine, so before I made any decisions, I need to reach out to my wife and also two friends who are well-regarded professionals in the Physical Therapy field. I needed to get educated fast about this type of injury and what was the recommended path for recovery.

Patella 1 The Next Day

patella 2The day before surgery. That divot in the middle of my leg is where my knee cap should be.

I’ve had over 28 years as personal trainer and wellness consultant, I’ve had my share of injuries which I have had fully recovered from, and I’ve helped a lot of my clients to recover from their various injuries, but I was in uncharted waters with this injury. So my friends Molly Scanlan Malloy and Phil Malloy informed me that even though it was crucial that I get the surgery within 5 days it wasn’t essential that I have the operation that night. So the doctor put my leg into a brace, gave me crutches, wrote me a script for Oxycodone and home I went. When I got home around, 11 pm, my son, daughter and friends had been waiting for me to get back from the hospital before they would cut my son’s birthday cake. If there was a silver lining for the day, this was it. All my pain subsided when my daughter and son along with Will’s friends came out of the house to greet me home.

My next step, I had to quickly learn about this type of injury, what was a realistic path and timeline for recovery considering my age, oh, and what was this all going to cost but that would have to wait for the next day.

To be continued……

How I went from……

Patella 3


The blue arrow in the above picture is where my patella (knee cap) should be, and the red arrow is where is my quad muscle retracted the knee cap up into my thigh after the patellar tendon rupture. The yellow line is the 45 degree angle platforms that got the best of me. From “The patellar ligament not only helps keep the kneecap in its proper position but also assists in the bending of the leg at the knee. Damage to this ligament can include a complete rupture (tearing). This leads to the patella losing all support from the tibia. As a result, the leg will not extend properly. People suffering from a ruptured patellar ligament will not be able to stand, as the knee will buckle under the weight of their body.”

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