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Author: Richard Symister

“Why Did I Go Skiing?” Bianca’s Story

Bianca H.

  • Age 27
  • Moderately active pre-injury (workout 1-2 times per week)
  • Never seriously injured 
  • Never did serious Physical Therapy

I was at a company retreat in Killington, VT when I fell. I’m an intermediate skier, but lost my balance and tumbled for about 5 seconds after taking off. I went to shift my weight on top of the run and I think my skis crossed and that’s when I started tumbling. Upon landing, I noticed neither ski ejected, something that usually happens when falling, which immediately triggered alarm bells regarding how injured I could be. Thankfully, a coworker and an off duty ranger skied over to me and asked me if I was okay. I saw that my legs were tucked behind me with skis still attached, as if I were just leaning on one side of my hip with my knees bent behind me. I remember feeling like I was fine…but sore. A soreness like someone was pulling my legs back. I asked them to help unclip me and they asked if I could ski down. “Yea I think so, but let me see how I feel when I stand” I responded. Upon standing with most of my weight on the ranger, I immediately wanted to vomit because my left leg gave out completely and couldn’t hold me up at all. And that’s when I realized something was very wrong. I didn’t feel any pain just zero weight bearing control. So much so I thought my leg must have looked like a spaghetti noodle. But I didn’t feel anything. This was probably also because of the fear and adrenaline racing through my body. Within 5 minutes the first aid unit was there checking to see whether I could move my leg and I told him I could only lift it with help and barely move it. He was also asking me to recap what I remembered. They started strapping me into a sled and then skied me down the mountain to the clinic. 

Once I arrived at the clinic they wheeled me in and put me on a bed.  They helped me pull off my boot and pulled up my leggings to get to me knee. I immediately saw how swollen my knee was…I mean triple the size… no knee cap in sight. I iced for about 20 min. They tried to see if I could move my feet and toes and feel certain touches. I could. They mentioned it could be an ACL injury but sent me to a clinic down the street to confirm. 

I arrived at the clinic about 20 minutes later and was immediately taken in for X-rays. From there they put me in an exam room and a doctor came in and did a bunch of different exams/techniques to try to determine the injury and next steps. I was still extremely nervous and shaking so he wasn’t able to do a super thorough exam, but he’s seen thousands of knee injuries and said that he was over 90% certain it was a full ACL tear with some bone bruising and an MCL sprain. He said it didn’t seem like I did damage to my meniscus. They gave me a knee compression brace (flimsy fabric one) and crutches. Before I left they had me get back on my feet and putting weight on my leg with a crutch. I was extremely scared to put weight back on my leg, but they said by now I would have been able to weight bare. They were right though not comfortable and very unstable. There was no way I could walk without the crutch and I could not fully extend or bend my leg. That was probably the scariest realization of it all. They had me follow the RICE protocol until I could get home to my ortho and have an MRI to confirm their findings. black physical therapist new york

Upon getting back to NY the ortho had me get an MRI which confirmed the previous doctor’s suspicion. She also drained the fluid from my knee which helped a lot with the pain. It was never a throbbing pain..more of just a very uncomfortable feeling and stiffness. I was also very nervous to put weight on it. She gave me a larger brace that locked my leg straight. She mentioned that I could get it surgically repaired or I could just do physical therapy and hope that it gets better over time. Regardless of that decision, one that I had months to make, she advised that I got to PT immediately and start prehab and get to moving it. I had a trip to Thailand planned and I was cleared to go, but didn’t think I would actually be able to due to my injury. Little did I know that from that day on, my daily visits to MovEvolution would help me prepare for my trip and get me walking somewhat comfortably and more confidently faster than I thought.  physical therapy near me

Summary of symptoms: 

1. Felt like my leg was being pulled/stretched beyond comfort at the time of injury.

2. From there on extreme swelling, some throbbing.

3. Discomfort due to the fact that I couldn’t fully straighten my leg/had no extension or fully bend/had no flexion. 

4. Fear/anxiety – fear that I would never walk again..never straighten or bend my leg because it was impossible to do. Also fear that I would never sleep comfortably again without my leg propped up in the perfect position. 

Biggest learnings: 

1. Follow RICE as much as possible 

2. Ask if the fluid could be drained if really bad. Swelling is what causes most discomfort.

3. Ask if you need the equipment they give you in that moment or if you could go pick up on your own at a more affordable price. In the moment I just took everything. In retrospect, I definitely needed the crutches but I could have purchased the flimsy compression knee brace at CVS for $20 instead of $72. 

Next blog: Bianca’s 1st day at Physical Therapy and a classic example of anxiety exacerbating pain.