Episode 83 | Playing the Long Game in ACL Rehab

Show Notes:

Looking for the magic bullet, quick fix or single best exercise to speed up your ACL rehab? ACL recovery is the long game. In this episode, we discuss an athlete case to help explain how playing the long game will get you reaching your goals and maximizing your rehab potential.

What is up team, and welcome back to another episode. Today, we get a little bit of a mindset episode for you and share an athlete win. And the focus of episode number 83 is playing the long game in ACL rehab. I want to dive into this win from one of our ACL athletes, and just focus on this concept of playing the long game.

Let’s dive in. I got a text from one of my ACL athletes’ parents this past Saturday. And I’m not going to lie, it hit me right in the fields. And I’m going to read it to you guys and it says: “Hey there, Dr. Ravi, Aiden put together a video of some of his highlights last year. And I finally told him to stop adding clips too long. And it’s funny because it was three-plus minutes long.” And he continues with, and sorry for the cheesy beat he put to it. It’s actually a pretty sweet beat. Anyways, the last part of this says “He’d never be on the court without your support and guidance through his ACL journey. Thank you.”

I was just sitting on the couch with my wife and I got this message and yeah, it hit me all up in the field. I had a little bit of an emotional moment. And I feel these ways whenever I get these types of messages from my athletes. And just seeing the success and just the things that they’re going through, is just very rewarding as someone who’s on the end helping them. But just to see them doing their thing, to see them living out their dream, and to be able to get back to the things that they love to do.

I want to tell a little bit of his backstory in order for you guys to know where he’s come from, where he’s at, and how he got to this point. And this is a high school basketball player. He tore his ACL at the end of his junior year, and this was a few years back. He was planning on playing college basketball and really wanted to get a scholarship to go and play. He had a long road with his knee injuries in his junior year. There was a lot of confusion about who he was working with, tears X, Y, and Z.

Finally, we connected to start working together to get him back to playing basketball in his senior year. We were awaiting the results of his ACL and some of the testing with the surgeon. And when we tried to manually test his knee, it was very difficult to tell if there was a torn ACL. He had a lot of muscle guarding. The joint itself was pretty stable, so it didn’t even seem like it. And even with certain movements, there was no instability or anything like that. 

And come to find out, he got the MRI tested with a surgeon that I trust here locally. And he ended up having a torn ACL. I got a call from the surgeon. And so then I was seeing the kid pretty soon after. I ended up breaking the news to him and his parents about his torn ACL. And then we discussed the game plan and the surgeon was like, we need to do surgery based on his history and the things that he’s wanting to do, which is to play college basketball. And me and his parents have the conversation and it is heartbreaking to tell a kid who wants to play his senior year. 

And the senior year of high school for someone who’s good at sports is a very big, pivotal year. One is to transition towards college if they want to play seriously, and get scholarships. But also you’re kind of on top of the food chain. And it feels good you’re probably playing at your best game if that’s the case. And I had to basically tell Aiden: “Hey bud like you tore your ACL and so we need to decide, do you go forward and play basketball this year without your ACL? Or, do we let you have the surgery and plan for college?” It was not an easy choice. It was something that I gave my own personal recommendation and we talked with the family. He broke down, so it was a tough little moment. But we ended up deciding, okay, let’s have the surgery. Let’s get you good and ready so you can play your dream, which is college basketball. High school basketball is important, but it is a stepping stone to getting your scholarship and being able to go and play in college. He already knew he had a long road ahead of him, but he was super determined to make it happen. And he did, he played the long game. And now he is deep into his college career, starting on the team, draining buckets, and making highlight films for himself of the year that he’s had, which has been incredibly impressive.

And so why do I bring this up? To show it’s possible. And here’s an example of an athlete doing just that. To show that these stories do come to fruition. If the work is put in, if there is support behind you, then that is a very lethal combo to get back to what you love doing. And it’s awesome, it’s awesome to see him living out his dream. For me as a coach, to see him happy and doing that, that’s what it’s all about. That’s what makes this so worth it to me to work with ACLers, to give ACL athletes an opportunity to come back stronger than they were before, both mentally and physically. And to give them a fighting chance and not to live in this fear of another re-injury; to be able to be their best selves.

I say all this because the long game and playing that long game is so important, so important for each and every one of you. And we know this process is long, it’s hard, it’s painful, it’s just downright difficult. And many days you want to give up, especially when a setback kicks in. I remember going through this process and every in and out of it, the two times that I’ve gone through it. And if there’s just something about it that going through this and being able to walk through these shoes, to be able to look through the lens of an ACL athlete and to know what that feels like and looks like. And it’s just freaking hard, man. It can be very mentally taxing, it can be very physically taxing, very emotionally. And then you’re also trying to be in this normal role that you’re in, whether that’s with athletics or with your spouse or with your kids, or just your daily activities and you feeling you and you feel off because you have a knee that is in this process of getting better. And so that can throw a lot of wrenches into your daily life and long-term plans as well. 

And so this is all a part of it. It’s a 9 to 12-month process. It’s a long time to rehab from anything in general. And this brings me back to Aiden. He had a goal to play college basketball. That was his dream and that was his north star. And he was relentless in his pursuit to get there. We didn’t have any magic bullets or tricks. There wasn’t some go-to exercise or quick fixes for his issues. We played the long game. Good strategic rehab and strength and conditioning grounded in principles of science, research, testing, and data used over time, to allow him to build up brick by brick and get 1% better each and every single day. He played that long game. And now, he’s living his dream of playing college basketball. 

My encouragement here to you is to play the long game, anchor yourself to something that is the dream, your north star, and then set up milestones and short-term wins along the way. These will add up to get you to the end goal you’re dreaming of and getting back to. And one thing I tell and talk to all my athletes about is setting expectations in this process, knowing that things will be hard and there might be setbacks and that this is going to be a 9 to 12-month process, if not more. And that is going to take time. And if you give yourself that expectation, and if you get yourself these milestones and set up these goals and build up along the way, it’s going to help set you up mentally to put things in action. 

One thing I want you to do is to think about the proudest moments in your life, the things that you’re proud of, things that you’ve accomplished. Were they easy to get to or were they hard? And this comes back to that same notion that nothing in life that’s worth accomplishing is easy. And that’s so true in this process, whether that’s for me as a business owner and building a company for my ACL rehabs, to playing sports, to all the other things that are worth accomplishing. None of that stuff’s easy and it’s going to be hard. 

And one of the things I actually heard the other day was from a podcast by Nick Bare of Bare Performance Nutrition. He did an episode on choosing your hard. And one of the things that he talked about is choosing hard things in order for there to be options and opportunities down the road. And so this is one of the things I would encourage you guys, is that you choose your hard and that hard is going to be something that’s going to help open up opportunities and get you to that end goal. And is going to usually take putting in work day in and day out to get there.

I also encourage you to have a support team behind you and with you. Aiden wouldn’t be here without the team around him. And I know he has said that. You look at all the people surrounding him to get him to this point. It wasn’t just him. He put in the work, but there’s so many people around him. His parents were his rocks and his support system. They drove hours upon hours to get him to his rehab sessions. We helped him on the rehab and training journey. His surgeon doing the process of doing the surgery and helping to support this process and testing. His sports coaches who helped him get involved back in the sport and to get acclimated again. It took a team.

I know you might be thinking, well, I don’t have those resources. Maybe it’s financially or the people around me, the PT, the surgeon, maybe it’s just your own situation, and I hear you. And what I’m saying is that you don’t need all of this. You don’t necessarily need every single thing for a college basketball player that you need for your own situation. But what you do need is support in some type of capacity, and that is going to be really important. And you need to make sure you’re getting out what you need in your rehab. And if you’re not getting it, find a different option. Do not spin your wheels. You need a support system that is going to help support you from the mental and physical side of things. You want to make sure that you have a plan that is specific to you and will guide you in this process. One that will allow you to play the long game and get back to what you love doing.

And look, if you need help in finding a place or a person, we don’t care if it’s us. Just find someone that’s going to help you. Please reach out. You have all the information in our show notes on the website. You can contact me there or you can send me an email at ravi@theaclathlete.com, or you can hit me up on Instagram ravipatel.dpt. And we will be happy to help support you in this, whether that’s finding someone local to you remotely, or whatever it is that you need, we want to be there for you. So reach out if you need us.

I feel fired up from this episode. And I think that it’s just one that was cool to share and I wanted to share it with all of you. And I think that there is a big message here from this kid going from not being able to play his senior year, to now playing college basketball. And that story could be something for you. And I encourage you guys to seek that out and play the long game because that’s what Aiden did and that’s why he’s here. He didn’t look for quick fixes. He didn’t try to rush to play. He played the long game and now he’s playing his college basketball career the way that he wanted to. 

So what’s the main takeaway today? Play the long game and make sure you have a plan in place and people to support you to get there. Does that sound good? Sweet. All right, guys, I have one request for you. Anyone who is listening, one request, and that is if you got value out of today’s episode or any previous episodes, we would really appreciate it if you leave a five-star review, whether you’re on Spotify or Podcast Apple, or whatever you’re listening on. And the reason we care so much is that that helps us to reach more ACLers and supporting roles just like you. Go and do that. It takes less than a minute. And you can basically knock off two things you’ve done in your day: listen to the podcast, leave a review, and then you can just go about your day and feel like it’s a win. 

All right, team. Thank you guys so much from the bottom of my heart for all of your time, all of your questions, all of your comments, the messages, everything. Thank you so much. We’re going to keep things rolling because our goal is to make sure no ACLer falls through the cracks. And that you can be educated and informed, and you can make empowered decisions in your own process. So that’s going to be it for today, guys. Thank you all so much for listening. This is your host, Ravi Patel, signing off.

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