My ACL story

Warning…long post ahead. Probably not all really climbing relevant, but maybe it helps someone who is experiencing a similar injury.

End of January I fell on a boulder problem in the gym, the ground was closer than expected (my feet were probably only 50 cm above the ground), so I had no time to look for it). My right foot hit the floor and my knee moved in directions it shouldn’t. I heard a crunch (or two) and felt something break.The second I landed I hammered the floor in despair, super angry about what just happened. I didn’t knew what it meant yet and my knee didn’t even really hurt, but I knew that the planned trips to fontainebleau and switzerland in spring wouldn’t happen for me.

A couple days later I got the diagnosis: ACL torn, MCL torn, meniscus cracked (also called ‘unhappy triad’). Yay! Surgery was 2.5 weeks later. I was pretty scared before, as the method sounds rather painful. They take two tendons, semitendinosus&gracilis,  from the hamstring (the whole length !) and fix these with screws to replace the ACL. But the surgery went well (apparently I have super solid bones, so it was tricky to get the screws in ;-P) and after 4 days I was released from the hospital. Pain was really well managed and after a couple days I was off painkillers.

As the first weeks you can’t really do a lot, you have a lot of time to think and google things about knee injuries … I had three big mental barriers to overcome to really stay positive and make the best out of it:

  1. Accept that it happened and nothing will make it unhappen. Sounds stupid, but as the accident felt so random, it took a while to not look back and think “what would have been if…”. The night after the accident I couldn’t sleep, so I made a list of things I could train to at least get stronger if I couldn’t climb. I upgraded the home training setup, started a training diary and got my first flappers from the beastmaker even before the surgery. I was able to keep up the motivation for training most of the time and it was very uplifting to see some progress.


  2. Accept that it might take longer than just 6 month to be 100% back to normal. From professional soccer players I read that they are back on the field at the earliest 6 month after the surgery. So this was the timeline I had in mind at first. But, I’m not a professional athlete, so I don’t get professional rehab and after 6 weeks at home I was back to my normal 40h job and had to squeeze physio and training in my free time. So I set the goal for myself to work towards being back to bouldering in the fall (9 months after surgery). Summer in the frankenjura is usually to warm for bouldering anyways.. I started toproping 2 months after surgery. At first I pretty much climbed with only leg, but with time I could use the other leg/knee more and more. I slowly increased difficulty and found a cool slab to try (somehow I always felt more comfortable on vertical climbs, as you move the knee only in 2 dimensions.)
  3. Accept that it might never be 100% normal again.
    Mentally the hardest time was maybe about three months after surgery. Many patients have reached full flexion by then, I had only about 110°. A doctor considered the possibility af arthrofibrosis (too much scar tissue in the knee) and for about three weeks I was super duper worried and spent too much time reading horror stories about that condition… I tried to increase flexion by all means, which usually ended in frustration and tears. But after my surgeon and two physios told me to just be patient and not worry I did just that. I kind of accepted that it might never be back to fully flexible. But when I measured flexion again after a couple of months, it had still increased:) Still some way to go, but there is still progress so I’m happy. Sometimes it’s better to just  relax  and let the body take its time to heal.
    A good read here: https://b-reddy.org/2013/10/23/the-biggest-mistakes-acl-patients-make/

 

 

Fast-forward some months…and countless hours on the bike and doing rehab exercises. I graduated from very simple isometric exercises to strength training (lots of squats and deadlifts with heavy weight) and started with dynamic stuff. The first weeks trying to jump on one leg I felt like an idiot…You know what to do theoretically, but you just can’t do it. I really had to relearn the movement  …and get the power back. My quadriceps is a muscle which usually grows when I only look at a bike…but now it is atrophied and gone…coming to life back only slow. But at least all this training keeps me in pretty good general shape I think;)

Exactly 6 months after the ACL surgery I sent one of my hardest routes (Cringer 8b+ in the Frankenjura). Maybe I should stop calling it rehab climbing? ;) Or maybe not… It felt like a good approach to be mentally in rehab/training mode. For the most part of the last month (exception see above;-P) I really managed to focus on the things I could do instead of getting frustrated about the things I can’t do yet. I never pushed the knee too far, I was staying in the comfort zone. But always carefully trying to extend the comfort zone… And with no expectations on myself or the knee it’s easier to be happy about little improvements each week. Nice, I can use the leg more, oh wow I can heelhook, cool I can jump down from a meter and it feels good,… Also surprised myself by doing such a long route so quick… :)The leg is still a good bit weaker, it definitely needs a bit more time and training️ before I’m ready for bouldering season… But that’s ok, as I’m really enjoying the routes and the summer☀️

Pic: Sarah Seeger

Big thanks to Thomas Bayer / UK Erlangen for the quick MRI,  Volker Schöffler/Sportsmedicine Bamberg  for the great surgery & follow-ups, Simon Friedrich & other physios/Rehazentrum Valznerweiher for the motivating rehab training and treatment, all the fellow ‘kneehab friends’ who shared their experience with me and everyone else for all the support and patience!

If someone with a knee injuries has questions, just get in touch (dorokara.wordpress@gmail.com)! I had a lot of people giving me advice and I’m happy to share my experience:)

My pro-tips for life with crutches.😉 (I made these for a friend who got knee surgery a couple days after me…)

Fall/winter 2015

After weeks and weeks with 35°C I could not wait for cooler temperatures! Just as these arrived, I found a red circle on my knee, where a tick had bitten me a while ago. Blood tests confirmed lyme disease and so I had to take antibiotics for a months and take it easy.

To get back in shape, we went on a couple little trips to the alps. Granite climbing is what helps me the most with body tension and pure power… And carrying a Mondo plus a normal-sized pad up and down the hills of Magic Wood for sure helps as well for overall fitness ;-p

More rainy than sunny days meant playing around on the Bruno boulder was often the best (or sometimes only) option. It was really fun to catch up with old friends like Thomasina and Cedar and try and climb various problems together… Like Supersupernova (8A) or Minisex (7C).

After more weeks of work work work work, I did a little solo trip to try to finish an old project of mine. I got pretty close but failed…I was rather disappointed when I came home empty-handed, but with some days gone by I really wouldn’t wanna miss this experience. Focusing on only this one problem, obsessing about it, dreaming of it… This really ignited a passion in me, which I kind of forgot I had. I worked full time for the last years and put a lot of heart and time into that.. Which is fine, as it’s fun and I learned so much! But I still need to get better in balancing these two worlds I live in. Because now that I felt that passion again, I really know I need both worlds. So I was really excited for the new year…

A big thanks to Anne, Reto and Valerie for the great time and incredible hospitality!

Summer 2015

Hottest summer I can remember…so we tried various things to escape the heat.

Steep and shady cliffs in the Frankenjura:

 

Red sandstone towers of the Pfalz in western Germany…The place where I started climbing and where my love for sandstone comes from! Very sparsely bolted sometimes, some camalots needed. Haven’t placed a lot of gear the last years, so fun! Did the superclassic Tuxedomoon (7c+), with a huge double dyno! The myth says Wolfgang Güllich once broke his leg on that climb…An additional bolt makes it much safer nowadays, but still exiting!

 

Alpine adventure with my dad in the Gastlosen, Switzerland: Learning the tools of the trade of mulipitch climbing. Amazed by the rock quality, so much fun to move on that smooth, clean white limestone! Definitely will be back for more:) Despite making some rookie mistakes… shoes to small, backpack too big, south face on a hot day😉

 

Bouldering in the alps…Zillertal, Austria. At least a bit cooler there;)

Chasin’ the rubbish

Fontainebleau is the destination of many climbers from all over the world, especially during the easter holidays. To minimize the impact from the legions of climbers, Black Diamond has organised a cleanup event for the past years. The goal of this event is to collect trash in the most popular sectors like Bas Cuvier or Franchard Isatis and to sensibilize climbers for a ‘clean climbing’ codex.

In my experience, most climbers  care quite a lot for the rocks, forest and nature. But even if you behave perfectly, you will have an impact on the nature and leave some traces. Therefore its really important to try and minimize your own impact and also to educate others about it…. in a nice way obviously🙂

Here is a video from the event:

Black Diamond and Evolv have updated their websites with athlete biographies, if you fancy a read:

http://blackdiamondequipment.com/en/athlete-bio-karalus-dorothea.html

http://www.evolvsports.com/athletes/international/dorothea-karalus/

Magic March in Fontainebleau

We had a great trip with good weather, fun with friends and obviously lots of climbing!! I seem to be back in alright shape, doing the powerful “L’art de la fugue” (8A) and my big project from 2013, “Frisson” (8A+)…which is my 50th boulder 8A and harder:) That problem evolved to be a mental game, as I already fell after the crux in 2013. This trip it didn’t gave up easily as well… After way too many times stepping off, making mistakes or just not trying hard enough, I managed to switch off my head and try with an all-or-nothing attitude. Super super happy to climb ‘Frisson’ on the last evening of the trip!

Très heureuse also about doing some high classics, like “Misericorde”, “De la Terre à la Lune” and “Super Prestat”.

Miséricorde (7C+) is the kingline of Franchard Cuisinière and was maybe the best experience of the trip. I’ve tried this high problem in previous years, but after some weird falls I was usually scared and climbed like it. This year I went there with no expectations and a relaxed mind…(and better pads…😉 Such a great feeling to grab that perfect top jug!

Back to bouldering…Sunny days in Ticino

Spot the difference: Before (CT) and after surgery (X-ray)
Spot the difference: Before (CT) and after surgery (X-ray)

After a couple months of ‘rehab-climbing’, the final X-ray for my wrist showed that everything healed fine and that the lunate bone (Os lunatum, the bone with the cyst) looks normal again. Even though I was pretty positive about the healing process before, hearing that from the doctor was a huge relief! My only souvenir is a nice ‘pirate scar’ on my wrist as a reminder that I’m not unbreakable😀

Since then I’ve started bouldering again and the wrist feels great, stable and no pain at all:) I’m only avoiding these weird huge plastic sloper and volumes in the gym where the wrist is in a very contorted position …after reading so much about wrist injuries these don’t feel ‘healthy’ anymore….

I was obviously very psyched for my first climbing trip in a year: Ticino for New Years Eve. Except the first two days we had perfect weather with a lot of sun. I got sucked into trying a bit harder problems than planned… Oh well, I had a lot of fun and seem already be in alright shape…

Back home in the frankenjura I took advantage of a single day with perfect weather and sent my first 8a boulder after the injury, the tricky ‘Barny Geröllheimer’. Very excited for the rest of 2015!!!

weeeeeho I’m back…. ! unfortunately with a bang…

Pic by @sarah_seeger: my very first day outside! Sooooo happy to be back climbing after a 7 months long break due to my #stupidwrist. Some days later, I made the most stupid mistake in my life though: Using a too short rope, which resulted in a groundfall. Luckily without severe consequences, feeling much better already. Please stay safe everyone and MAKE A KNOT IN THE OTHER END OF THE ROPE…