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Climbing Injuries // Meniscus Tear Repair: Pt 3

In August 2015 Beth Thomas had a repair of torn cartilage (meniscus) in her left knee.  This is the final article in the series that charts her journey from hospital to getting back to climbing.  We would love to hear your comments about her journey - please tell us what you think about her story.   If you want to read the first parts you'll find them here: Climbing Injuries // Meniscus Tear Repair: Part 1 & Part 2

Climbing after an operation

4 months on

I decided to try out indoor climbing four months post-surgery. This was an appropriate time for me even though heel hooks, smearing, high feet and drop knees were not possible. 'What else is there?' I hear you ask!  The answer is 4+ on top rope! Jesting aside, I did start very easy and 100% safe of any fall. I managed about 5 routes before my knee was too tired and achey.

Getting back to lead climbing after surgery

Very soon I started leading again, but left the technically difficult climbing to top roping. This was only to eliminate any concerns about falling and knocking the knee. I would recommend getting on the wall as soon as you can, however you must always speak to your doctor or health professional if you have any concerns and to check this is ok in your situation.  What I feel it that however much physio support you receive, the muscle groups/tendons that you need specifically for climbing can only really be regained through the act of climbing, so getting back to climbing will help you get your climbing fitness back.

A 3 month pass was a good incentive for me and a month into the use of my pass I was leading 6a again. Three months into my pass I was working on lead 7a/b. This could have only happened on the wall. No amount of gym work would get me back to that.

What helps most with recovery?

I have to say that the most positive experience of my recovery was my dedicated, kind and understanding physiotherapist. She pushed me physically and helped me come to terms with some of the more mentally challenging aspects of rehabilitation. I was lucky as I was referred to an independent hospital that weren’t constrained to NHS protocols. When my sessions were coming to an end my therapist requested a further 6 sessions from my GP and I got a total of around 15 sessions. My friend who recently had complex lower limb surgery is still waiting for his first session after 5 months.

Seven months after knee surgery

The stitch anchor that was bothering me even from week 6 is still in place inside my knee.  It's seven months’ post-surgery and I am still waiting to have the anchor removed. This may never happen, but it is still causing me pain. My quads are still extremely weak and I am just about pressing 5kg on the leg press.  My other leg can do 30kg+.

Reflecting on my knee surgery

Looking back I was naïve to think this process was simple. I have put endless hours every week for 5 months into regaining strength and still have a long way to go. For anyone thinking of undergoing a meniscal repair it is vital you know what you are hobbling into. All of this considered, I would still do it again. Meniscal repairs aim to maintain the cartilage and I hope to be using my knee for many years to come.

First day climbing after knee surgery

My first day back on rock! 7 months after my meniscus repair surgery.

by Beth Thomas

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