Photo by Kylie Justice
For Caitlin Byczko, remaining physically active is one of the most important aspects of her life. She runs, she rows, she lifts weights and she does yoga; and that’s just getting the list started. However, when Caitlin was playing in a recreational soccer league, her active lifestyle came to a screeching halt.
“I was planted a bit funny and then a guy ran into me on the left side,” said Caitlin. “It wasn’t a malicious or particularly aggressive hit, but I heard everything in my right knee pop. I immediately went down.”
Although Caitlin did not feel the pain due to shock, she wasn’t able to walk or stabilize her knee at all.
The diagnosis-ACL and MCL tear
The injury occurred on a Thursday evening, and by Friday morning Caitlin was sitting in an OrthoIndy clinic, waiting to see sports medicine physician, Dr. Jonathan Shook. Dr. Shook determined Caitlin had a torn ACL and MCL in her right knee.
“Caitlin came to see me within 24 hours of her injury, so there was a lot of swelling and very limited motion of her knee. After examining her, it was clear that this wasn’t your typical ACL tear,” said Dr. Shook. “An MRI confirmed a torn ACL, but she had also completely torn her MCL. Many MCL tears do not need to be surgically repaired, but Caitlin had a torn MCL away from her tibial side, as opposed to the femoral side. Without surgical repair of her MCL tear also, we risked leaving her knee unstable. So the decision was made to reconstruct her ACL and repair her MCL.”
It’s not uncommon for an ACL tear to be accompanied by other knee injuries, such as an MCL tear. Treatment for knee injuries depends on the needs of the patient. Surgery is often necessary to return to sports and an active lifestyle.
“I am not a very patient person by nature, so immediately after the injury I wanted to know how I could get started on the healing path,” said Caitlin.
“Dr. Shook was perfect for me because he spoke pretty frankly about the extent of the injury and the options for recovery. He took my personal circumstances into account when making his recommendations, which was a huge part of the process for me.”
Caitlin’s husband and his business partner own NapTown Fitness, a gym in downtown Indianapolis. So, working out daily wasn’t just for exercise, it was a huge part of her life and the community that she was involved in. Additionally, Caitlin is an attorney and her injury didn’t allow her to move around the office or travel with any ease.
Caitlin decided there wasn’t another option, her daily routine required her to be active and she would need surgery if she wanted to keep it that way.
During ACL surgery your physician will replace the torn ligament with a tissue graft that acts as a foundation for a new ligament to grow. This is done arthroscopically using small incisions, which means less pain and a faster recovery time than in the past.
ACL surgery recovery
For all patients who choose surgery, physical therapy is very important. It focuses on reducing swelling and pain while returning motion to the joint and strengthening the surrounding muscles. Later in the recovery process, focus is on regaining balance control and sport specific type activities. Complete rehabilitation is vital before making a full return to sports or repeat injury can occur.
It has now been almost two years since Caitlin’s surgery. She has been able to return to her normal, physically active life. In 2017, her goal was to row a 10k or run a 5k every single week and she accomplished that. She even ran her personal best in her mile time trial and back squatted her personal best post-surgery.
“Getting hurt really helped me get my life priorities in check,” said Caitlin. “It took getting hurt for me to realize that I did not need to be working out three hours a day in order to get a good workout. Post-surgery I certainly learned how to take better care of my body with things like yoga and extra rest days.”
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Shook please call 317.569.2514 or learn more about sports medicine treatment at OrthoIndy.