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Ask Bill Begg!

Skating's top coach answers your questions

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World renowned speed coach Bill Begg shares his vast knowledge of skating every week in his "Ask Bill Begg!" column on the Inline Planet.

Find out more about Bill Begg and his column.

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July 8, 2009

How Do I Recover From a Knee Injury?

QHello, Bill: Years ago, I hurt my left knee skiing. The doctor told me to work it off. So I continued using it, though I could feel that it wasn't quite right. Finally last June, something popped in my knee, causing intense pain. I got an MRI and was given two choices: live with it or have it repaired arthroscopically. I tried living with it, but every time I pushed hard while skating, it would ache for a week. So I decided to have it "scoped." My question is how long will I have to recuperate before I can safely return to skating? Thank you, Norm, British Columbia

Hi, Norm: First off, take the advice of qualified medical people, preferably with specialties in sports medicine. These days, there are sports-medicine specialists all over the world.

We are lucky in Switzerland. We have Dr. Pier Hofer to help us. A top master speed skater, he has produced some great results with top speed skaters, including Scott Arlidge, who won the toughest race at Worlds a year after breaking his ankle, and my daughter who, despite tearing two ligaments and rupturing another three months ago, will race in the World Games next week.

Back in my racing days, we weren't so lucky. Sports medicine doctors were far and few between. And we were more or less on our own.

Such was the case in 1972 when I injured my knee in a bad skating crash. The doctor said I would be out for three months and would need an operation, and the newspaper reported that I would be unable to skate for New Zealand in the important races with Japan and Australia the next weekend.

But I wasn't having any of it. That night I tore off the bandage, chucked the crutches and had a therapist work on my knee. The next morning, in much pain, I raced the 20 km race, finished second to world champion Dean Hayes and won a spot on the New Zealand team.

Nearly 40 years later, my knee is still OK and still hasn't been touched by a doctor.

But these days, as I said, the best thing you can do is follow the advice of qualified sports medicine specialists (doctor and physical therapist).

I can give you some general recommendations. First, I would say forget about running. It's the most knee-jarring exercise of all. Also, avoid excessive jumping and weight-bearing activities that involve the knee.

A good alternative — and one your doctor is likely to recommend — is swimming. A good way to keep your muscles active (once your knee flexibility returns) is to do some light pedaling on a stationary bike. But be sure to stay seated while you do this so you don't put excessive weight on your knee.

It sounds like you are no longer a spring chicken, so it's even more important that you take care with your recovery. Working with a good physical therapist is a good way to rebuild your strength and flexibility.

Once you've recovered your knee strength, by all means get rolling again. But, as I said, throw away the running. After a knee injury, skating and cycling are better options.

Cheers, Bill

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