Episode 102 | Picking the Right Professional For Your ACL Team

Show Notes:

  • We talk about an ACLer story and healthcare encounter that went wrong
  • We discuss the goals of healthcare and it can fall short
  • Stories of how I had to deliver bad news to athletes
  • And how to audit your ACL team to make sure you have the right people in your corner

What is up guys, and welcome back to another episode on the ACL Athlete Podcast. I’m just going to say I am on one today, so I hope you guys are ready. If you’ve been following along on Instagram and following some of the posts that I’ve made and some of the stories, today is basically going to highlight and dive into that. And it’s all focused around picking the right professional for your ACL team or for your healthcare for any matter. And I want to share one conversation in particular with an ACLer I’ve had recently. 

She’s a higher-level athlete who was told by a surgeon she would never compete in her sport again and to give it up and find something else. Her first ACL tear, she’s very active, very fit, and was told to give it up to find something else. What? This absolutely pissed me off. And I’ve heard the most absurd things in healthcare, being a healthcare professional. But this one in particular really struck a nerve for me. I don’t know what it was. I think it’s because she also had been misled in her own process. There had been some advice that had been given and some things that had been done where I was like, man, this could have been prevented if there was proper guidance, and this all comes back to the healthcare professional that she was using in this process. 

And one thing that I wish, is that healthcare professionals had to be audited on what they were saying to patients. And then it maybe was repeated back to them or there was a role reversal and they were put into the patient’s shoes to see how they would respond to their communication or advice that’s given. I keep saying one of these days, we’ll turn a corner on some of this, what we call nocebic if we talk about placebo. Is telling them… usually from a place of authority, giving them something that would potentially benefit them or telling them it would have a positive effect. Nocebic is basically the opposite. Saying something negative has a negative effect basically. A lot of times this will be paired with fear-mongering. It’s easy to tell someone that there’s something wrong with their hips or something is tight or something is wrong with their knee, out of alignment.

A lot of these myths that we’ll hear in healthcare and in our profession, to be able to basically just say, “Hey, something’s wrong, you need me.” And it is basically a tactic to make people come back, and spend money which is very sad to say. But at the end of the day, money does drive a lot of people’s actions. It drives healthcare, it drives a lot of things that people use. And they will even convince themselves like, oh, there’s something wrong with that person. Let me tell them the negative things so that way they need me. And it’s one of those things where I keep saying, one day maybe we will turn a corner and we still have a ways to go. And that’s just with my experiences, with conversations, with ACLers, with other people who are going through this process, dealing with other stuff too. And it’s just something that we have to continue to work against this uphill battle. Maybe one day and one day you guys will hopefully be able to listen to this and be like, “Hey, we’re in a better place.”

I do not mean to be negative, and that’s one of the things that I always want to make sure with this podcast, with this platform, is that there’s not just a bunch of negativity and complaining, but it is important to talk about the problem. It’s important to talk about what people are dealing with, what are the day-in and day-out type situations that they are walking into, and it happens more often than it doesn’t. And so that’s the thing that’s important to highlight and our goal is to be this solution. This is just fuel to the fire to me, to be able to continue to grow this, to continue to help you guys out, to continue to build our team and to provide as much information, so you guys are able to make good decisions. That’s the goal. Because let’s face it, this process is really hard. There’s so much info out there. It’s hard to know who to trust, and what to believe. 

And I always use the analogy of it’s like drinking out of a fire hose. It really is. You have an ACL injury, and all of a sudden your world is new to what this injury is. What is the ACL? What do people do about it? You hear about it in sports, but then like what? We just go to the surgeon and then they have surgery, and then we have rehab, and then we’re good to go. No. There’s so many factors, as I’m sure any of you who are listening are probably going through where you’re like, wow, hamstring graft, quad tendon, patellar tendon, autograft, allograft, meniscus, what do I look like whenever I’m trying to get back to sport, criteria. There are so many things in this world to process with ACL rehab. That’s why this podcast exists. That’s why we’re trying to give you evidence-based, science-based information to make good decisions. That also includes being able to pick the right people to be in your corner in this process.

My goal is always to be tactical and not just complain. We’re going to have some action-oriented steps for you who are listening, you who are interested in picking the right people, professionals to be on your ACL team, to have in your corner along in this journey. And that is where I want to focus my energy today. I want to elaborate on a post I made related to this topic. A good rule of thumb for picking your healthcare provider. If you leave that visit or conversation with that healthcare provider or insert coach, you leave that conversation or visit feeling worse about yourself, find someone else. And I want you to look at this through the lens of anyone you work with, surgeon, PT, athletic trainer, coach, whoever. I feel very, very strongly about this. No matter what needs to be discussed or communicated, any type of results, news, you name it, it can be delivered in a way that is framed to be positive and empowering. That doesn’t mean it needs to be fluffed up or sugarcoated, but it does need to be gracefully communicated.

I’ve had to tell a basketball athlete who tore his ACL that he needed to forego his senior year so he could have a longer playing career and play college basketball. We didn’t skip over how that sucks. Senior year of high school sports is everything, really everything. It’s one of the best years of my life. It sucks to miss that and the sport that you love with your best friends. Everyone knows that feeling. If you’re good at sports or if you love this sport, your teammates are so important to you and you’re in your last year where you’re feeling like you’re really making a difference. You’re a starter. It sucks.

I’ve had to tell that athlete to forego his senior year so then we could play the long game. We focused though on how it’s an opportunity. We didn’t just focus on how it sucks. We spent some time there, but then we quickly focused on trying to get out of it. We focused on how it’s an opportunity to come back stronger, faster, and better than he was before; to work on his game, and his skill set, and to crush it and get a scholarship. And guess what? He got a scholarship and is absolutely crushing it. I’ve had to tell clients that the reason they’re not progressing is because they’re not doing the work. It’s something where I notice that we check in or we evaluate, we’re trying to see where their progress is, and sometimes it’s on them. But I don’t tell them they’re being lazy or it’s not a priority, or they’re going to get re-injured again.

I’m not just going to use fear tactics on them or just call them out, sometimes. But you still have to do it gracefully. It’s my job to explain why it should be a priority and to dig into why they’re not doing the work. Let’s make it a priority, let’s connect why that should be important to them. They still have to do their part, but it’s my job to figure out how to lead them there and understand why. There have been plenty of situations where I’ve had to deliver not the best news to my athletes. And it’s something that has to be done very gracefully and communicated in a way that is framed, that is positive and empowering versus breaking them down. 

What’s the goal of healthcare? What are the goals of these roles that we’re trying to evaluate and audit? The goal is independence. That’s what healthcare should be. It should not be dependent. It should be empowering, not deflating. What can we do versus what we can’t do? Do you see how it’s like a glass half empty versus a glass half full? And I know that’s thrown around a lot, but that’s an important mindset thing and it’s an important from a communication standpoint. Tactically, as the ACLer looking at this, or maybe you’re a clinician or a coach listening to this episode, what can you do? Let’s talk about it. You’re going to do an audit of any professional healthcare coach, whoever it is that is helping you on your journey. You’re going to do an audit. And what I mean by that is you’re going to audit, you’re going to evaluate, assess who that person is, and ask these questions to yourself. Maybe you’re sitting here wondering, did I pick the right professional? Well, let’s roll through some questions and see, okay, is this the right professional or should we pivot?

Now, let’s assume you’re walking away from a visit, a session, or a conversation, whether it is with one of these people like your surgeon or PT. Did they have a good demeanor? Did they treat you well in that session, that communication? Did they have good bedside manners? How was their demeanor? Did they have a good demeanor? Did you feel heard? Was it easy to communicate with them? Did they ask you about your goals specific to you? What drives you? What is important to you? Did they discuss options with you? What are your options for what’s ahead? Did they help in making a plan? Did they tell you about what the roadmap looks like? How you’re going to get there? Here are the next steps. Is there a plan? And the most important one that I mentioned earlier, are you walking out of the visit or conversation feeling better or worse than when you came in? What does your gut tell you? And this is the thing that I’m going to tell you is the gut test. Something randomly just came to mind, the gut test.

When you walk out of that session with that person, do you feel like your gut is telling you, this is the person I want in my corner? Or is it not? If you feel you answered most of these answers with a no or with a negative type of answer, then it is time to find someone new. And I told you guys, 2023 is the year of action. I’m giving you guys a call to action. This is my call to action to you. Find someone else if you feel like you can’t answer those questions well with who you’re working with. 

A good way to think about this is to think about your most favorite person in the entire world. And they are telling you about this visit or conversation, but of course, this is you. But imagine this is that favorite person telling you about it. What would your advice to them be? What would you tell them to do? Would you tell ‘them to just work through it, and keep going? Or is there a certain point where you’re like, man, this doesn’t sound good? Maybe you should find someone else. And obviously, with people we care about and that we love, we want them to have the best support.

Think about them in this situation and then take that action and put it towards your own action. There is nothing wrong with firing your medical professional or whoever you’re working with and getting a second opinion or just finding someone else. And for some reason in this world, in ACL rehab, I’ve talked about this before. But we’re hoping that we can stay with them. Maybe because it’s easier, it’s closer geographically, or maybe you just don’t want to change. It’s simple. Okay, cool. But can you audit them honestly and answer those questions with a yes? Then cool. Keep working without a professional. It sounds like they are making moves and helping guide you in this process. But if not, then it is time to reevaluate.

As I mentioned before, my wife had a pretty negative experience with a healthcare provider at the tail end of last year. Guess what? We fired them and found someone else who was going to get the job done. They had a good demeanor, she felt heard, and it was easy to communicate with them. They asked about goals, they asked about options, or what’s important to my wife. They helped develop a plan and we walked away with a much better feeling and they passed the gut test. There wasn’t a hesitation afterward. We felt very confident in who we were working with. And that’s how you should feel. And any good healthcare professional will check these boxes. They pass the gut test. If you are someone who is trapped or feeling stuck in this, give this a shot. Give yourself an honest audit of the surgeon you’re working with, the PT you’re working with, and the coach you are working with. 

And if you are not sure, that’s why we’re here to ask questions, we will ping you back with answers. If you need support in this process, we’re here for that. If you just need someone to chat with, we got you. But seriously, make some moves. Time is precious. You don’t have time to waste in ACL rehab. Make sure that you have someone in your corner and a solid ACL team. And being able to think about this from the lens of, if this was my favorite person, would I be okay with them doing this? And if you can answer yes, then roll with it. If not, then it’s time to reevaluate. And while we might be focused on your ACL team, think about this as your healthcare team or anyone involved in helping you become a better person, whether it’s mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally, or whatever you are trying to improve. This can be a similar audit for anyone in that process. It’s just going to be important to make sure you have the right team so you can be the best human you can be. That’s what we’re trying to do, that’s what we’re trying to improve in ACL rehab. Obviously, there’s more physical and mental components, but you get what I’m saying. And I just want you guys to be as equipped as possible. 

And before we sign off here, I want to make one special announcement about our newly released website. This website is dope. If you guys have not checked it out, it is theaclathlete.com. You can find it in the show notes. If you just Google the ACL Athlete, it will come up. But man, this website is awesome. And as I mentioned the previous week, we have so much queued up with the website. More and more value that we have been focused on for you ACLers, free resources that you can grab and download for the free newsletter that is coming. We have some other blogs and some other resources that we are pumped to announce here soon, so stay tuned. Check it out. If you guys have any questions whatsoever or need any support, we’re here for you. 

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