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By Max Greenberg

Oh, My Aching Knees

Uploaded: Jul 19, 2017

About 2 years ago I started having knee pain in both knees. I have been a regular player at the Ross Rd YMCA pickup basketball games at lunchtime and Saturday mornings for about 10 years. A couple of years ago I was feeling especially randy and double-dipped: I played at the Mt View Y Saturday mornings 7-9am and then at Ross Rd from 10-noon. Things were going great, getting a double workout and playing my favorite sport. Until the knees started acting up. Turned out I had probably accelerated a loss of meniscus on the inner quadrants of both knees by too much basketball. How could that be. I love bball. So does every guy who plays at the Y. We can’t stay away. You can’t take basketball away from me. No, not that.

I went to see a doctor. And then another. And finally an ortho surgeon who had me scheduled for a surgery where they cut a wedge out of a bone in your leg, insert two metal pins that stick out of the leg so they can attach an adjustable plate which gets periodically adjusted with the goal of changing the weight bearing angle through my leg to take the pressure off the inner quadrant where the buffer between bones was wearing away (the meniscus.) First the one knee, then the other. Months of recovery required. With the end result, as per the doctor, that I would be able to play doubles tennis again (I don’t even play singles), I could play golf (that I can already play) and if I recall being able to ride a bike (which I already could still do.) But it would not result in playing basketball (not recommended) without pain. And he predicted within 10 years I’d still have to get my knees replaced.

Whoa. What to do? My wife was not looking forward to having to nurse me for near a year. Especially the first 6 weeks or so (per knee) of non-weight bearing movement. I did a little research asking Dr Google. I spoke to a couple of doctors I knew. I spoke with an old high school friend, a physical therapist who had been the trainer of an NBA team for over 25 years (as well as been head trainer for the NY Cosmos soccer team when Pele was with them.) He told me NO: over the years he had never seen a good outcome from this particular type of surgery. I also spoke to a physical therapy office and asked if they had worked with patients after this kind of surgery and they were not too enthusiastic about what they saw. I was still on the fence because I wanted to believe in it so badly. Then, as fate would have it, I ran into a guy around my age (64) who had had the same surgery, same doctor, and was very unhappy with the result. He didn’t go through with having the second knee done. Now, I don’t know if he followed the doctor’s rehab instructions carefully, or what could have contributed to a not-so-great outcome, but that was enough for me.

I next went to a physical medicine doctor who talked to me about strengthening the muscles around the knee and set me up with some physical therapy sessions. That was about a year ago. Today I can report my knees feel a lot better, I play bball once a week at the Y with some great knee braces with a metal hinge that keeps me lined up right, and I have no pain after the games. I can ride a bike, but as far as doubles tennis, not my game.

Then this morning, I had a flash of inspiration. Missing that running aerobic workout that bball 3 times a week gave me, I’m not sure how I thought of it while walking my dog Jackson but I flashed on those funny looking guys you see every four years at the Olympics. The racewalkers. I started racewalking, or my novice version of it. Arms pumping, trying to make sure one foot had contact with the ground at all times. I did one lap around Ramos Park and bingo, I was sweating, my quads were feeling it, and I felt great.

This post was supposed to be about race-walking but turned into my non-knee surgery story. Next post: racewalking, and powerwalking. Beyond the nightly stroll.