Episode 18 | Ibrahim Ugradar – Semi-Professional Soccer Player and 5-Months Post-Op ACL Reconstruction

Show Notes:

Ibrahim “Ibi” Ugradar, a goal keeper for semi-professional team Baitez Squad in England,  tore his ACL before the COVID pandemic hit. Now, he’s 5 months post-op ACL reconstruction and is looking to make a strong comeback next season.

In this episode, I sat down with Ibrahim (“Ibi”) and we discussed:

  • His ACL story
  • What went through his mind during the moments right after his injury
  • How COVID-19 impacted his recovery
  • The mental battles he faced during this time
  • His ACL rehab process and the struggles
  • The importance of small wins and a support system
  • What he learned about himself
  • Advice for someone going through the ACL process

Ravi Patel: What’s up guys, and welcome back to the ACL Athlete Podcast. This is your host, Ravi Patel. And today, we have guest Ibrahim Ugradar, goes by “Ibi,” right? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Yeah, that’s really cool. 

Ravi Patel: Ibi is a goalkeeper for Baiteze Squad, a semi-professional team in England. He is now five months post-op ACL, and he is looking to make a comeback in the next year. Ibrahim, thank you so much for being here, and welcome to the show. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Thank you for having me on. I’ll be looking forward to this. 

Ravi Patel: Yeah, man. I know we’ve been talking, so Ibi and I connected via Instagram. We’ve been able to watch his journey unfold. We’ve been able to chat about his story and the things that he’s been going through, so we thought it’d be a good idea to bring him on.

Ibrahim Ugradar: I’ve been looking forward to this. I’ve listened to your podcast, and they’ve been a great learning curve for a while. I’ve been in my ACL rehab process. 

Ravi Patel: Thanks man, thanks for listening. Ibi, first off, do you mind sharing with our audience a little bit about your background? How did you get into football? As we call it, soccer in the U.S. How you got into that and just your background overall. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: I started playing football from quite a young age—I would say eight or nine, which is not that young in England. You get kids playing for like two to three. I started playing football and started playing out grassroots Sunday league. And I’ve just started realizing, at the age of 13 or 14, that I’m actually quite good at this sport. I started to take it to the next level, playing for my county side, which is a very big team to play for at your age. I started getting recognized by professional clubs, and it went on from there. I’ve been to a few professional clubs. It got to like 18, 19. I was at a very big Premier League club in England called West Ham on trial. I didn’t get assigned. A few weeks later, I went to a non-league side, which is semi-professional in England, and played my first game. I had scouts watching me. I played amazing. We played against a higher team. I played so good that scouts were calling my agent, saying, “Oh, we’ve got professional trials for him.” I was over the moon. And the next day, I played for my other team and tore my ACL. It was the worst timing ever. I think everything happened for a reason. But at that point, I was  trained, I couldn’t believe it. 

Ravi Patel: Tell me how it happened. Replay that story for us. Because I’m sure you remember—did you block it out, or do you remember all the details?

Ibrahim Ugradar: I remember everything. 

Ravi Patel: Tell us about the details.

Ibrahim Ugradar: Originally, I went up to catch a cross, and I went down to the floor to waste time, and someone sat on my knee, or they just landed on my knee. I just knew something was wrong. I didn’t hear the pop. I went to the hospital straight away, and they told me, “You tore your ACL straight away.” They’ve done an X-ray. They didn’t even do an MRI. And then I went privately to do an MRI, and the results came back as a partial tear. I thought, “Okay, cool, a few months of rehab.” I wasn’t very educated on the injury. I thought, “Okay, after a few months of rehab, I’ll be back playing.” I’d done a few months of rehab. I didn’t do it properly at all.

My type of rehab was just resting, letting the knee just naturally heal, which I thought would do the job, but it didn’t. I went back to playing a game. It felt fine, and then I went into training, and someone just went shoulder to shoulder with me. And I kind of just landed on my foot. I wouldn’t say it was a contact. It was a contact, but it was a non-contact as well. It was a bit of both. When I landed on my foot, I heard two pops in my knee, and that’s when I knew straight away that, okay, cool, I didn’t do my rehab properly, and this is a complete tear, straight away. I knew that. Now, I’m out for a good 12 to 16 months. 

Ravi Patel: What went through your mind whenever that happened? You heard the pops, and everyone who’s into sports and hears about ACL injuries knows the notorious pop. What was going through your mind after that? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: “Why is this happening?” I thought I’d done my rehab correctly. I felt like I played a game, and I felt good. And literally, I went to the hospital; I had my MRI again. And once I got the results, I went in with my mom to get the MRI results. I could see it on the screen. Because I’m with my mom, I’m just trying not to tear her up. And I just started bursting out, crying out loud. This can’t happen to me when everything’s going so well. I felt that part was the biggest mental toughness of actually realizing that, okay, cool. Now I need surgery. What happens next? 

Ravi Patel: How did that process unfold after you realized, “Okay, my ACL is torn, and looking to have surgery or not have surgery. What was that process looking like for you? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: To be honest, because in England you have free healthcare, you have very good healthcare to an extent. But when you get injuries like this, let’s get on with it; let’s kind of solve this injury out to the next person. They don’t really go into the details of the injury. I went to my consultation, and they said, “Yeah, you need surgery straight away.” It was never a conversation of, do you need surgery? He just said you have a torn ACL, you need to go get surgery. In terms of my surgery, I had my ACL done in December 2019. I originally got my surgery in December 2020. I’ve waited a whole year for my surgery. That was the biggest mental block for me because of that whole year of Covid. I had surgery canceled four times before I originally got it. It got to the point where I was still able to walk. I didn’t really try to run. I still actually played football while I had my ACL which people were calling me a “madman” for playing football while you had a torn ACL. It was a bit of a weird one. But for me, if I can’t play football, I’m not getting surgery; I’m just going to play football anyway, which was a big mistake. I suggest people, if you’re listening to this you have a torn ACL, don’t play. It’s not worth it because I actually made my injury worse when I got on surgery day. I feel like the wait was the biggest mental toughness for me so far.

Ravi Patel: You bring up a really good point because Covid has thrown this barrier in front of people that were very unexpected. And I’ve talked to so many athletes who had to wait and postpone their surgeries because it’s an elective surgery here in the U.S. For a very long time, and let’s say you’re a senior in high school, you’re playing in your last year, or you’re trying to get a scholarship to the next level, that could be a certain time point that is going to really limit you. So that’s a really good point that you bring up. What would be something that you would say just in general about that, and with Covid and even some people who are still battling this stuff? What would be your advice to them? I know you said, “Wait, don’t play on it.” Is there any other advice that you would give them during this time? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: I feel like one thing that I could have done better was prehab. I had a year of waiting for surgery, and my mentality was, what’s the point of getting stronger if it’s going to go into surgery and it’s going to get weaker again? But little did I know prehab is so important to kind of making sure post-surgery your knees are strong. It helps a lot, which I didn’t take into consideration. If you’re still waiting for your surgery, go to the gym, just do little bits. If you have a physio, speak to your physio, and see where you could improve. But prehab is so important. 

Ravi Patel: I even did a podcast on this before. But prehab is huge, and if you’re listening and waiting for your surgery, keep training. This is going to be a very big piece to your recovery. And being able to train your quadriceps and the rest of that leg is going to be very valuable. And most of the time, the people that I see who are rehabbing or doing the prehab into their surgery, as soon as they get out of surgery, it’s like an on-ramp and they just hit the ground running with the rest of the rehab that they’re supposed to be starting. How do you end up deciding on your graft type?

Ibrahim Ugradar: My graft type, I didn’t really decide it. My surgeon said that for your injury, this would be the best graft type for you. I haven’t had any issues with it so far. We’ve had to work a lot on my hamstring to get it as strong as possible, which we’re still working on. I’m still only five months post-surgery. But I didn’t really have an option with my graft type. I didn’t really do enough research which would be the best one. I had it handed to me, you’re getting a hamstring graft, you’re getting lateral tenodesis surgery. No questions asked, let’s get into the surgery kind of thing.

Ravi Patel: And it’s one of those things where it’s a very difficult question to answer. It’s not this blanket, okay, you’re going to get a hamstring, and that’s it. A lot of times it’s going down to the surgeon’s preference, which is essentially how you were guided with this. And then, being able to make other factors of strength and different components that you’re going to be using going forward in the rehab process as well.

Ibrahim Ugradar: I understand.

Ravi Patel: In terms of your rehab, now you’re sitting at five months out, right? How has the rehab process been? You have your surgery and then you start out from there. How has it been? How’s this road? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Honestly, if we ignore the first six weeks, they’ve been amazing. The first six weeks, my mentality was I just need surgery. I didn’t have my physio suited out for when I had my surgery. For the first six weeks, I was just literally sitting in bed. I had no plan of action to get the correct physio. It was literally just me kind of taking it day by day. I was doing little things on my own to try to get my knee as straight as possible, but it still wasn’t good enough without physio and without someone who knew what they were talking about. After six weeks, I decided, okay, cool, I’m not going to get any better without someone who has the knowledge to help me get better. 

I actually found Isokinetic Medical Group, which is quite a big ACL or generally rehab medical group. Since then, they have been my savior, to be honest. They’ve helped so much. The physios there have been amazing. I’ve spent a lot of time there. But honestly, since then, it’s been very good. There have obviously been some tough moments, especially the first few weeks of going there, in which the main aim was to get my knee straight. Six weeks post-surgery, my knee still wasn’t straight, which was a little concerning. That was a red flag and that’s all we worked on. 

Ravi Patel: The Isokinetic Group is an awesome group. They are some front runners with some of the research that they’re putting out, and also the rehab techniques, and it’s people that I’ve learned from as well. Ibi, you’re in good hands. What types of things have you been challenged by, the types of things that you were doing maybe early on? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: For me, I would say the top two biggest struggles I’ve had while I’ve been in rehab were getting my knee straight and also the first part of strengthening. Because I’ve never been someone who goes to the gym and works on their body. I’m kind of just letting it go. For me, when you go into physio, I think you put a very good story about it. When it was something like, when everyone asks you, how’s your ACL injury going? And you say you’re okay, but your body’s just aching. That was literally me. When we first started working on the hamstrings, and the quads, my body was in bits, like it was aching, and that was the biggest struggle. If I go for one day of rehab, I need three days to recover. I feel like that for me was my biggest struggle, was just trying to get past the first stages of the strengthening. Because once you get past that first stage, it just flies by. I could go to the gym now, and my body’s so used to it, I won’t feel it. It’s letting your body get used to it, the timing. But yeah, it is been tough. 

Ravi Patel: I know what you’re referencing. Especially right after the surgery and I’d probably say, like you said that first six to eight weeks, and even longer than that, it was this GIF for G I F where you’re just like dying inside. It’s like all these weird feelings of the scars healing, the knee is trying to get normalized, you got a new graft. There are all these different feelings. You’re trying to work on the knee. You’re trying to figure out, okay, is this pain okay? There’s some swelling. There’s just so much that’s going on during the process, especially early. And then, every now and then you’ll just feel some weird pains or some weird sensitivity and then you’re just like, is this okay?

Ibrahim Ugradar: I’ve had to ask my physio so many times. This doesn’t feel right, is this okay? And he just texts over. He says, don’t worry, you’re fine. It’s just part of the process. This is why I say having a good physio who’s knowledgeable is so important. Because you get so many little pains, so many little niggles that you want to know if you are all right. If something’s going wrong and with the correct person, I have Alex as my physio, who’s amazing. With the correct person, he’ll guide you through it. The best way to get rid of that pain. Sometimes it’s just a little massage on the knee that will elevate the pain away. It is very important to have that. 

Ravi Patel: Yeah, to have a guide. Guys, I can’t stress this enough. I know you’ve heard this in previous episodes and stuff. But to be able to navigate this road—Ibi it’s so long, right? It’s a very long process. You’re about halfway there from a time standpoint. But then, to be able to know that if there’s something that comes up, whether it’s some aches or pains, or you may feel this weird, funky pain or your knee swells up; to be able to know you have a plan in place and someone alongside you that you trust, it’s not just some random person; to be able to help guide you there, it makes a huge difference. You’re going through the process, do not do it alone. How do you feel your mental health is now—and I know you talked about that year with Covid and then also coming into now five months into rehab. Where do you feel like your headspaces with all this? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Right now, I feel like the toughest point for me away from the Covid situation was the first couple of months, two to three months. It was like, okay, it kind of syncs with you that this is your life for the next 12 months of getting fit and going back to the sport you want to play. And it was like, I have a friend who literally, I’ll be like to her that I can’t do this anymore. This is long, and she’ll just give me a little cold shoulder and just tell me you’re going to do this whether you like it or not. It is really important to have the good people around you. I know you spoke about this as well before, about having friends, and family around you to help. It’s so important. It’s so important that right now I’m really happy with how everything is going. It is getting to the point where I’m just like, I’m five months in. I have another six, seven, or eight months left, or potentially less, we’ll see. But I am at a stage where I don’t want to rush anything. I’m at the stage where this is slightly dragging a little bit. You just have to constantly think of the end goal. Remember the times you were playing, you were enjoying yourself, you just have to always think about that. And really and truly, it’s just about you making sure that you are ready for the next stage, just take it day by day kind of thing. You don’t want to rush it, you don’t want to overthink things. It’s just taking it day by day. 

Ravi Patel: I cannot stress that enough to take it day by day. It’s incredibly huge. And if you try to look at the macro, it’s going to get very exhausting, trying to think about all the different things that you might have to go through. So taking it day by day is huge, making sure that you celebrate the small wins along the way. Talk to me about those small wins. I know even just being able to hit this next benchmark of a strength comparison. Talk to me about that. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: With Isokinetic, you’re very lucky to have the actual isokinetic machine. Ravi, you can explain what the isokinetic machine is. I’m not the best…

Ravi Patel: Here, I’ll give a quick overview. The isokinetic machine is this machine that you essentially get strapped into and it measures strength at certain speeds. We’re able to figure out how strong your quadriceps, your thigh muscle is, and then also your hamstrings. And it’s used for other muscles as well. But in ACL rehab and recovery, we’re always looking to get towards a 90% at least, compared to that uninjured side to make sure we have a good return to sport. But this machine essentially measures the strength, and it can also do it at certain speeds as well. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: For me, just sitting on that machine was the biggest victory because, okay, cool. I started walking at this point, which was amazing for me as well. Walking is just weird. I don’t need these two sticks to just help me bobble along anymore. I could walk without any support; that was huge. But sitting on that machine was, okay, cool. This is my next step to running. My score wasn’t the best on my first attempt, but it’s part of it. Each day my score improve and improve and improve, and it was the best feeling ever. And I think there was one day when I just couldn’t hit my normal score. I just couldn’t do it, and my physio Alex saw me. I was just annoyed with myself. I was just beating myself up. He literally took me to the corner and said, you literally just done a whole day of quads, and hamstrings, and you expect to go to that machine and smash your score. He said to me that, I didn’t expect you to hit your score. Your legs are tired, your body’s tired. You’ve been here three to four hours. He just laughed at me. He was like, what do you actually expect? And for me, because he knows the way to console me and to make me feel better. And honestly, that made me feel so much better about myself that okay, cool, I shouldn’t actually hit with that score.

And the next day, I came in, and we made a deal that the next day if I come in and I smash my score, I don’t have to do forward that day. I literally came in the next day, I had a good meal and I smashed my score. Even little victories of beating your score every single time were amazing. And then contest day, I think I have the paper here. My quad was 18% difference and my hamstring was 15, or it might have been the other way around, which was a very good benchmark. I start running a little bit. Now, I’m at the stage where I’m running. We’re still trying to hit that 10% and potentially even try to get them as close as possible. Once I hit that score, I was over the moon. I remember it was like an exam results thing. I was waiting for the test to come down. I went to the consultation with my doctor and I was just sitting there like a nervous kid. What did I get an A? Did I get a B? And it felt so good, honestly, it felt. I couldn’t stop smiling that day, man. It was honestly the best feeling ever. That’s what the journey is about: results, feeling good, hitting benchmarks, that’s what it’s all about. 

Ravi Patel: Absolutely! Celebrating those small wins and being able to take that day by day, it’s awesome, even that you mentioned, your physio. The important point here is that took you aside because they know you as an athlete. And being able to talk to you and know what motivates you and also put things in perspective a bit, to be able to take a step back, I think is really important which is awesome. The other thing that you mentioned here, so with people who don’t have access to, let’s say the isokinetic machine because they can be hard to get access to specifically. The main principle here that I want you to take is being able to find something, to be able to find it objective. It’s not just, okay, I feel stronger today. It’s how can we create these objective measures like Ibi, you have numbers to be able to know you’re within 18 to 15% of certain strengths. And those are things that are very important to be able to do that. Even in school, you’re taking your analogy. For example, if you get an A or B, those are still objective things that we’re able to measure. If we were like, hey, we’re getting smarter, what do we measure that on? And in school, we do that with testing. Why would this ACL testing, that research has supported so much, be any different? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Just going back to the physio a bit. I think you mentioned it before about as a physio, your athlete comes in and you know if they’re ready for a session, if they’re not ready for a session, just by the way they walk in. And I ask that because I speak to my physio about your podcast a lot, and he actually listens to it, as well. It’s really good. And he came in and he just looked at me. He was like, you’re not ready for today, are you? And I just looked at him. Alex, can we just have a light session? He just adapted the session toward me. We still worked on what we needed to work on, but we just adapted it to my mood that day. Because I go in five times a week, so it’s hard to get the best out of me every single day kind of thing. We adapted to how I’m feeling. We make sure we hit what we need to hit. But we adapt it. If it needs to be an intense session so be it. If it needs to be a lighter session, but we’re still working on the quads, hamstring, and maybe a bit of running, we work on it. So it’s very important. And I know we stressed this already. But having that person that can help you with these things and the correct physio is so important. I think that is the top three on the list for when you have an ACL injury. 

Ravi Patel: You raised such a good point. There should be flexibility no matter the day. With any of my athletes, whether I’m seeing them in person or working with them remotely, we are talking, we’re in communication. Let’s say they’re having a hard week just from the mental aspect or maybe their body is giving them a tough time that week and you’re the physio or your program says, today we’re doing this, there needs to be flexibility and being able to shift that. Because no matter what, I can write out something for you, but if you are not up with the energy to be able to meet that, then it might do more harm than good.

Ibrahim Ugradar: It just comes down to the fact of the person knowing you as a person as well as an athlete. My physio messages me sometimes at 10, or 11 at night. How’s your knee feeling? Is it still swollen? That’s when you know you are in the correct hands because he doesn’t need to do that necessarily. It’s not on his job/ time to shift to do that. That’s when you know you’re in the correct hands. He makes extra time for me. He’ll make sure I’m all right, kind of thing. That’s what it’s all about. And the ACL rehab process in itself is amazing about how much you learn about yourself and what type of person you are. It’s so interesting. 

Ravi Patel: Tell me what have you learned? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: I learned when I need to get something done, I’ll do it. Because I’m someone that has never taken gym seriously. This is my first knowing what I’m doing in the gym and I’ve learned that. I have that mental drive to get things done. Because I can’t lie, before the first two months I was doubting myself so much. I don’t think I’ll get through this. I generally don’t think I’ll get through this. And you do, you learn about yourself, you learn about your time management, your commitment that if you want to get something done, you get it done. I don’t have to go five times a week. They recommended me three sessions a week. I wanted to go five times a week because that’s how much I love what I want to do, and I want to go back to what I want to do. I’m not saying I’m rushing the process. Because I’m making sure I’m following what my doctor tells me, and what my physio tells me. But I’m putting as much effort and work in as I can. I’m a university student and my lecturers (I wouldn’t want me to say this) but I’ll probably put more time into physio than I do with my essays and assignments. It builds a certain kind of toughness and this is a kind of rehab thing that I’m even happy that I’m going through it. It’s honestly so crazy to say that I’m happy that I had an ACL injury, but you realize so much when you have it. And I’m really happy that it kind of happened and I’ve learned about myself and I’ve met new people that will always support me. 

Ravi Patel: There’s so much in that that is so valuable. And a lot of times it’s easy initially to be like, why did this happen? And even as you had mentioned, I believe everything happens for a reason, and I’m a huge believer in that as well. My ACL injuries and those recoveries have been very difficult. And anyone who has gone through this process is very well aware of it. But it also makes you so much more stronger than this physical recovery. There’s such a mental component to it. And Ibi, tell me did you feel alone? Even though you might have still had your support system around you, did you almost feel like you were a little bit isolated sometimes?

Ibrahim Ugradar: It happens. There have been times when I’m just like, no one knows what I’m going through, no one knows what it takes to come back from an ACL injury, no one knows my mental state at the point, no one knows how hard I work at physio. They just see me put a few clips on Instagram, showing them all the good sides of it. No one actually understands the tough sides of it, which is you could tell all your friends and family to support you. But at the end of the day, it’s on yourself as well a little bit. You do feel alone in some periods. But it’s about you remembering what you have at the end of the day, what you’re kind of fighting for. I have a saying where I’m fighting to go back to playing football. Sometimes I look at myself like, I shouldn’t be in a position where I shouldn’t be in a five-month surgery and doing really well, but I put in work for the past five months. I’ve kind of canceled everything out of my life and just said, okay, cool. For the next year, I’m literally just focusing on my knee, getting fit, and going back to football. I’m not saying that you have to put all that time into it, but it does require a lot of time. 

Ravi Patel: This could look different for many different people. Ibi, I know you have the opportunity to be able to go to therapy a lot and being able to train with some high-class people, and that’s huge. And you’ve also been putting in the work to be able to see this come through at the other other side of it, as you’re going. I love that you say it’s a fight because it really is. And for other people, this may be battling their different jobs, having kids, trying to navigate the sport, even identity, the mental aspect of it—it is a fight. That support system that we’ve talked about is incredibly valuable, it’s incredibly important. I know I wouldn’t have gotten through my two without the people around me. But it’s also this journey that you feel like you are kind of doing alone as well. Because no one else is going through it with you, at least like you or yourself. It’s this like war that you’re kind of fighting as well. You bring up some good points. It’s one of those things that it’s looking at it as a war, which I like that—a fight. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: It is. It’s a fight that I’m happy to be going through. Let’s just kind of leave it and put it as that. I’m very happy to go through it. For different people, they’re struggling. But at the end of the day, it will get better. Trust me, when I say it will get better, it will get better. These little victories, you celebrate them, celebrate them with your friends. I remember when I first started running, literally, all my friends came to my house, let’s go for a jog. Even though I wasn’t allowed, but they were just taking the meek, let’s go for a jog. Honestly, it was the best thing ever. This is what I say, people around you are so important. 

Ravi Patel: Once you hit that running milestone, you’re all right, I can start to see it a little bit. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: I was literally borderline tears at that point. I sat down, I finished my session and I was just watching it on the train home, and I actually ran for the first time since 2019. This was crazy for me and it felt good. I didn’t have pain. It was the best feeling ever. So far, that’s been the highest point in my rehab process. 

Ravi Patel: You mentioned it’s been five months with this process. There are some days where it almost seems like, okay, where’s the endpoint? You mentioned dealing with, or the burnout of it, you’re rehabbing day in and day out. You mentioned that end goal, how do you visualize that and keep that motivation going? Because this road is so long, what can you tell to the listeners about how to visualize that end goal and keep going when they feel like giving up?

Ibrahim Ugradar: Just little victories. I can’t stress how important little victories are. The first time we’ve done, a bit of plyometric: a box jump. I’ve done my first bit of change of direction, I think last week. Just little victories are so important to keep you motivated, to keep you going. They’re so important. I can’t stress how important little victories are. And just remember your end goal, this is what I like to do. Sometimes when I don’t feel like it’s getting too tough for me. I like to envision the times when I was playing football, I was enjoying football, and that’s literally it. It’s all about your coping mechanisms. It’s different for every person. It’s literally about how you go about things. But honestly, little victories are the biggest thing ever.

Ravi Patel: Always trying to connect it to your why of what you’re doing, what you’re doing. So dig deep into what it is, why do you wake up every day, why you go to rehab. It’s not sure it’s to get your knee stronger and to be able to walk and do these athletic activities. But there’s some end goal that you want to get to dig into whatever that is that really fuels you and make sure that that’s the end goal that you’re working towards, and using these small victories that add up over time to be able to help get you there.

Ibrahim Ugradar: For me, at one point in rehab was actually listening to these podcasts to help me, motivate myself. I remember listening to Jordan’s one. And that was like, okay, she’s… was it twice she done hers?

Ravi Patel: Three. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Three times. If she could go through this whole process, I was struggling. I remember I was two months in at this point, struggling. If she could do it three times, I could do it once. It is tough. But, remember just the role you’re fighting for and what you’re going back to do. 

Ravi Patel: What’s your biggest fear now? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Reinjury. I think that everyone’s coming back from ACL of reinjury. I believe that if you put in the hard work and the risks—and if you do everything correctly, follow your physio’s guidelines. My surgeon said that nine months is a good point for me to come back at. But he said that he’ll highly recommend me to come back in 12 months. As much as nine months sounds amazing to me, that’s four months left. I told my surgeon, if you think 12 months is better, I will do 12 months. It lowers the risk. I’m not saying it won’t happen again, but anything to get that percentage lower and lower and lower, I’m willing to take. 

Ravi Patel: I cannot stress that enough. At this point, mounting research that has supported time to be delayed at least until nine months. And for the most part, unless you are someone who is just very time-sensitive, there is something that is very monumental that needs to be done maybe a little bit before or within that 9 to 12-month range, then that makes sense. But that is such a very small percentage of people. If you’re listening, please do yourself a favor. Wait till that time, but the time isn’t the only thing. It’s what you do leading up to that, that will be the biggest game changer.

Ibrahim Ugradar: I think with ACL injury, you could never have a certain time point of when you’re going to be back. It depends on your body when you are ready. It could be nine months, it could be 12, 14, it could be two years for some people. But it really is when you are ready. And there’s no point of rushing it. I’m just ending back up in the same place again. It’s just not worth it in my opinion.

Ravi Patel: For me, for both of my ACL injuries, it took me a year. It was roughly around that one-year mark, I was still building. And even into the nine months, I could have tried, and sure I was still pushing myself training and things like that. But I just remembered that one year, 11, 12-month mark was really a big moment for me to start feeling really confident in myself and really knowing that I’m in a good place from a strength and mechanics and movement standpoint. That time between also helped to be able to assist with the mental piece too, which can sometimes have a little bit of that delay as you’re going. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: You spoke about the timing and I feel like I haven’t got to that point yet. I feel like potentially once you get back onto the pitch, like doing light stuff, I feel like your body could just go into a mode of like, okay, I go on to pitch. Now, let me just rush through it. But I just don’t think it’s worth it. I’m living on the pitch and I’ve had these thoughts that once I start getting onto the pitch, which I’m very close to, sure, let me just rush through it and just try and get through it. But honestly, once you go through the surgery and once you go for it, it’s hard to have that mentality that, I don’t wanna rush it. But you do get times, let me just get through this as quickly as possible. But you don’t want to end up in that same position. 

Ravi Patel: What’s one thing you wish you knew before having surgery or even starting out initially after your ACL surgery?

Ibrahim Ugradar: Probably your podcast.

Ibrahim Ugradar: I appreciate that. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Honestly. Before surgery, having someone who could guide me along. Even if I didn’t know them in person, potentially something like your podcast, asking your surgery questions, or prehab advice. I didn’t have anyone to speak to. I didn’t have that kind of support. I was waiting for surgery. I didn’t really have a goal to get. For me, I think I’ll definitely have someone to guide me through it. It doesn’t have to be a physio, it could potentially be someone that’s been through the process that could give you little bits of advice. But having someone before surgery to help you, whether it’s prehab or picking the correct graft or anything. But any piece of advice prior to surgery is amazing and so helpful. 

Ravi Patel: That’s very valuable. What does six months from now look like for you?

Ibrahim Ugradar: Fingers crossed, back on the pitch, playing football. No injuries, no troubles of the knee. But whether that means that I’m back on the pitch still training or playing contact sport we’re yet to see. But at this stage, I’m very happy for six months, I just want to be playing football again. I’m getting closer and closer to the pitch and I’m like, I just want to get there kind of. So hopefully, I’m back playing football, I’m back doing what I love, as long as I’m enjoying myself injury-free. That’s all you could really ask for, to be honest. 

Ravi Patel: I can’t wait, man. I’m excited to see what six months from now looks like. You’ve already worked really hard from what I’ve seen. It’s kind of cool your post on Instagram, but then I can also see the Isokinetic page posting about you, too. It’s kind of cool. I see you working hard so I can only imagine what six more months where you’re going to be at. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Yeah, hopefully. I don’t wanna rush it. I think for an ACL injury, I always say this to my friends, doing it once is amazing because you learn about yourself, you go through the lows, but you feel the highs. But I feel like going through it twice, I feel like it is tough. 

Ravi Patel: And you had such a unique injury and situation, that for other people who are listening, it’s going to be important to know that. The first time is not always easy to just prevent. If we knew that there would be no ACL injuries. We know things that are risk factors that will lead you to a second reinjury. And those are the things that are so important. Make sure if it’s just your first, that is your last one, if it’s your second, make sure it’s your last one, if it’s your third or fourth, make sure it is your last one and do it right. Because there are so many different things that could put you at more risk. And as Ibi has talked about, those are things that are going to be really important. And you don’t want to have to repeat that. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: I feel like whether it’s warming up properly before a game or learning your movements correctly. I’m at the stage now where I’m in the green room doing a lot of movement stuff, whether it’s like doing that properly. For me to get onto the pitch, I have to do a MAT test, which is a movement analysis test. They test your single-leg squat, your box jumps, and your change of direction. They have a really cool kind of technology in place to assess that. It is making sure that you do everything correctly. Because you could have all the strength there, but if you’re not doing the movement correctly, the risk of getting injured again is very high. It’s doing everything in your power to make sure once you’re back on the pitch and you work so hard to get back on the pitch or court or whatever is to try to lower that rate of injury as much as possible. 

Ravi Patel: If there is one thing you could say to anyone who has injured their ACL and is going through the recovery process, whether that’s before they had just injured their ACL or they have had surgery, what would that be? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: One thing I would say, I think it would probably be, it will get better. Overall, the process will get better. You’re probably going through a tough time, a very good time. At a very good time, it will get better. At the lowest time, it still will get better so just stay positive. Remember what you’re doing it for, why you’re doing it, and keep your friends, your family around you, and your support network, and remember it will get better. You will touch the pitch eventually. You will touch the court or whatever you’re doing, it will come. You have to wait patiently, do what you need to do, work hard, and it will get better. 

Ravi Patel: Amazing advice. I love that so much. Ibi, it’s been such a pleasure to have you on the show today. Where can people find out more about you online and how they can keep up with you on social media? 

Ibrahim Ugradar: I actually have a little ACL documentary out. We’re still on my first episode because I’m doing it as I’m going through. But you could find that on the Baiteze Squad Instagram page. And you could also find my Instagram at I-B-I-U-1. That’s where you could find me. 

Ravi Patel: You guys checked that out. I think it’ll be really cool to see your journey and be able to watch this documentary. I’m excited to see where you’re at and get back on the pitch, man. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Thank you. It’s been great being here, man, honestly. 

Ravi Patel: We will have all of Ibi’s information in the show notes below. Ibi, thank you so much for coming on the show today. 

Ibrahim Ugradar: Thank you for having me, Ravi.

Ravi Patel: I love talking to people who have gone through this process. You bring such a unique perspective to this. And being at the level that you’re at, and no matter where you are or what level, whoever is listening you’re at, I want you to be able to take some things away, and it doesn’t matter that level. It’s more of, how can you take these principles and apply them to your situation and be able to get through this rehab process, which I think is very valuable and very important. Well, I think that wraps things up for this episode, guys. As always, thank you all so much for listening to the ACL Athlete Podcast. This is your host, Ravi Patel, and your guest, Ibi, signing off.

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