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How I Blew Out My Knee and Came Back to Win a National Championship (jasonshen.com)
33 points by jasonshen on Jan 19, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 15 comments



The thing with a torn ACL is that they can't repair the cartilage, so if you get the surgery and go back to playing sports then you have a significant chance of getting osteoarthritis within as little as ten years.[1]

Is it really worth suffering debilitating and incurable pain for the rest of your life just to be able to impress other people?

http://www.npr.org/2011/01/19/133025140/for-young-athletes-k...


> Is it really worth suffering debilitating and incurable pain for the rest of your life just to be able to impress other people?

If you think sports is about just impressing other people, then I'm guessing you've never played a sport at a high level.

Being able to unify your mind and body at a high level in competition... it's one of the most cerebral, peak experiences, and it shapes and develops your character henceforth forever afterwards.

Ask most competitive athletes who've been injured if they'd go back in time and not play to avoid it, and most wouldn't make that trade.


"If you think sports is about just impressing other people, then I'm guessing you've never played a sport at a high level."

In college I was the fastest lightweight rower on the #1 ranked team in the country. I was within a couple seconds of the Olympic time standard when I found out that I had a minor lower back problem and quit the same day. The thing is, the only thing I can't do right now is row competitively, I have no day-to-day health problems. Whereas most of my friends who had similar problems and kept going are now in horrible pain just from walking around and sitting at their desks, and a bunch of them are strung out on drugs as a result.

Don't get me wrong, there's nothing I love more than getting to go out and fuck up someone else's day, but I feel like part of being an adult is learning how to do that in ways that further your actual life goals (e.g. through a startup) rather than just spending six hours a day in the gym or whatever.

"Being able to unify your mind and body at a high level in competition... it's one of the most cerebral, peak experiences, and it shapes and develops your character henceforth forever afterwards."

I agree completely. But as Alan Watts famously said, "Once you get the message, hang up the phone."


I agree. I am not a sports person, but I have friends that participate on a very high level in sports that no body shows up to watch. Yet they love it and wouldn't consider anything else.

It's what you love that makes what you do great. It's the same with many things, but with sports it's more apparent.


i agree with you, but i don't think you have to go that far to make your case.

sports are fun.


> i agree with you, but i don't think you have to go that far to make your case.

I went back and forth on quoting my experience with training and injury above and didn't, but maybe it's worth saying - breaking a few bones in my right hand ended my fencing career, I was broke a tooth training in Krav Maga, and tore some cartilage doing squats with slightly bad form in the gym.

I'd have preferred not to have had those injuries, but I wouldn't give up the lessons I got from my training to not have them, even though all three are a minor annoyance on a semi-regular basis.

Tangential note - I'd recommend epee fencing to anyone here. It's a lot like playing Chess with your body, incredibly cerebral and conducive to excellent thought and flow.

I've never been as locked in as when I came back from down a few touches to tie it up at 4-4 or 14-14... you know that last touch is everything, and your opponent starts thinking "oh no, I could lose this when I was up so much" - in epee fencing, if you have a lead you almost always win, because a draw benefits the leading player and draws are easy to get if going for them - when you come back from a deficit, meaning you're scoring touches and avoiding them getting even a single draw, that final touch you get so locked in, and then winning after being down... nothing else compares. I shiver just thinking about about battling back to even, winner-takes-all... nothing else compares.


It's definitely not a decision I'd recommend for everyone. It all depends on what your "actual life goals" are as you mentioned. For me, I knew that gymnastics was only something I could do for a short time in my youth and I wanted to go as far as possible with it. I had made the Junior National team at one point and competed in several USA Championships against all the big guys. I wanted do to whatever it took to succeed.

In terms of impressing people - that's never been a goal. I was greatly ridiculed as a kid for being a gymnast and even as it got a little more "cool" in high school and college, its got nothing on football or basketball. I did this for me - and for the coaches, teammmates and alumni at Stanford Gymnastics who were so dedicated to earning a victory.

It's the fact that we won as a team that means the most to me. I would not be nearly as proud of an individual win.


As someone who's had ACL reconstruction, I can tell you not getting the surgery can be worse for you long term.

Why? because without the ACL your knee is not as stable. You're more likely to do more damage to the cartilage with an unstable knee. While I was waiting for my surgery (in Canada, took about 6 months), my knee was highly unstable and lead to multiple close calls.

Of course, you need to make the surgery decision on a case by case basis. My knee was injured in such a way that I didn't suffer a large amount of meniscus damage, but definitely had the potential to wreck it if I didn't get the surgery.


I used to compete in gymnastics - it really is a grueling sport. My wrists are ruined from the pommel horse.

Congrats on the comeback, serious injuries are a huge mental and physical drain.


This is part 1 of 2. 2, the "Comes Back to Win a National Championship" isn't going up until next week.

The only things I got out of it were that gymnastics is just as viciously brutal on ones body as ballet or sports like American Football, and the knowledge that mens' gymnastics is dying a lingering death in the USA.


I have five daughters in competitive Gymnastics - they've all been in Gymnastics since around 2-3 years of age(oldest is now 15). I see their 'peers' in the neighborhood and there's no comparing physical fitness between them. It's been great for all of them - there have been injuries, but nothing that bad, so far.

Injuries happen - either get over it and go on, or curl up in a ball and put a cocoon around yourself. This guy had great intestinal fortitude coming back to the sport after those injuries - I commend him.


I dunno why but this reminds me of trainspotting. But choose life, right. One could avoid any risk of injury through non-participation but it's a deceptive opt out.


Along the lines of blown out knees in gymnastics is the incredibly inspiring story of Shun Fujimoto, who injured himself during a gymnastics routine in the Olympics, and then kept competing.[1] Per the Wikipedia article on the guy, "One doctor stated: 'How he managed to do somersaults and twists and land without collapsing in screams is beyond my comprehension.'"[2]

Watching that video and reading his story quickly put an end to my complaints of "but I need a nice ergonomic keyboard to be able to work at all!"

[1] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gq-C5-vIim8 [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shun_Fujimoto


The line at end of the Wikipedia article puts an interesting spin on this story:

  Later, when asked whether he would do what he did again, 
  he replied frankly, "No, I would not."
This makes me see it as more a cautionary tale than inspiring. Although it is still amazing.


I was a spectator at that meet--it was truly frightening to see. Glad Jason is doing well and sharing his story.




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