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The ACL Curse (and the CTI brace)

The ACL Curse (and the CTI brace)

What do Roman Abrate, Nils Jansons, Jenna Downing, Joey Egan and myself have in common? Small feet? Big aspirations? Maybe, but no: They were all victim to the rollerblading's favorite long term crippling injury last year, the ACL curse.

For those of you who are less familiar, the ACL is nothing to do with an ice bucket challenge, in fact, it's the 'Anterior Cruciate Ligament'; one of the main ligaments in your knee which is supporting your knee joint laterally.

ACL diagram

The injury is very common in aggressive skating as well as skiing, basketball, BMX etc. A rupture to the ACL usually occurs when the knee is bent inwards laterally (like you are doing a frontside or a UFO). I guess having 2 inches of leverage under your feet in the form of frames and wheels makes you a bit more vulnerable to this motion as a rollerblader.

I ruptured mine about 2 years ago (seen in the video below... don't worry, it's not gruesome)... carried on skating lightly for 6 months then realized the extent of the injury.



I boycotted an operation and opted for 6 months of physio to build muscle which was to compensate for the lack of ligament. At the end of the six months I skated again for a few days and then blew my knee out again (again, not gruesome)...



Of course, I had no ligament to tear this time but the mystery trauma, which was obviously caused by my lack of ACL, left me on crutches for a month and 10 days of Tramadol (which wasn't so bad). Incidentally, the nurse failed to mention that Tramadol is a highly addictive Opiate so on top of everything I had a few days of Trainspotting style cold Turkey withdrawal mid-trauma! (I've probably exaggerated that a bit... but I do look back on my Tramadol Holiday with fond memories). The conclusion; Physiotherapy alone probably isn't the answer if you've ruptured your ACL, you'll need surgery. Jenna Downing's latest injury was similar in that she took a huge trauma on an already ACL-less knee as a result of not having the necessary support.

So just like Jenna, I went under the knife. Fast forward 9 months to now and it's time to crack out the blades again. The knee still feels super dodgy with not much strength and limited mobility but I was recommended to a company called Ossur, who make specialist medical braces, namely the CTI knee brace. The braces are made to measure, they usually have a medical representative in your area who will draw all over your knee, take measurements and send the results off to Mexico. Two weeks later you get a bespoke brace back.



I've skated 3 times properly since acquiring the brace. It offered so much support both psychologically AND literally. I went from not thinking it was possible to skate to shooting street clips.  It's quite big, calf to thigh. I think it has to be like that so that any deflective energy can be referred to your ankle or hip. It's Carbon fiber though, so it's light and once you get over the initial weird, intimidating nature of having the best part of your leg strapped up, you start to forget about it. The feeling of being able to skate semi-confidently is priceless (but expensive admittedly) and if your skating is your Vice as much as it is mine then you absolutely cannot argue with the value of this product. Support is its forte, but it's also protective from impact, preventative from re-injury and gives you the option to limit your knee extension which is perfect if you are experiencing pain when hyper-extending your knee.

The video below shows the first couple of skatepark sessions back skating with the brace...



It's nuts to think how many skaters over the years have taken a back seat post-op but maybe it doesn't need to be that way.

Bespoke braces are expensive at around £700 but you can usually get away with an off-the-shelf version at half the price. Visit the CTI brace website for all the info.

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