"There’s a lot you can do. See the larger goal. See the opportunities. Use this time to grow."

Kirsten Alexis

In this interview Kirsten Alexis speaks out about her ACL injury from the moment it happened, the surgery, the rehabilitation, comeback… and thereafter.

Kirsten Alexis is an outdoor adventure enthusiast based in California, USA. Her many activities include high altitude mountain trekking, martial arts, skydiving, surfing, paddle-boarding, snowboarding and skiing.

Kirsten Alexis was diagnosed with a small tear in her ACL 15 years ago. She didn’t need surgery on the ACL, and did some workouts to strengthen her leg. About 6 months ago, September 2022, it happened again. Kirsten ended up with a torn meniscus, which was her main injury. She also had a minor tear to her ACL, as well as a slightly dislocated kneecap, minor tear in her quad tendon and bone contusions.

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I DIDN’T NEED SURGERY ON THE ACL, AND DID SOME WORKOUTS TO STRENGTHEN MY LEG.

01. WHEN, WHERE AND HOW DID IT HAPPEN?

“My initial injury was around 15 years ago. I had a pretty nasty fall while snowboarding, and was diagnosed with a small tear in my ACL. Luckily, I didn’t need surgery, and did some workouts to strengthen my leg. I never really thought about it as the years went on, as I didn’t have any issues with my knee.

After years of hiking, mountaineering, skydiving and kickboxing, it finally happened. About 6 months ago, I was in a Muay Thai class practicing martial arts, and felt my knee pop after a nasty kick. I quickly went down, and was able to get up and limp back to my car. I had no idea how bad the damage was, but thought it would get better with some rest.

I was wrong. I ended up with a torn meniscus, which was my main injury. I also had a minor tear to my ACL, as well as a slightly dislocated kneecap, minor tear in my quad tendon and bone contusions. I only needed an arthroscopy surgery to repair my meniscus, and physical therapy to strengthen my leg and prevent further injury.”

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BUT THE DAY AFTER I KNEW IT WAS REALLY BAD.

02. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING ABOUT DURING THOSE MOMENTS?

“My initial thought was shock. I think it all happened so fast that it really took me by surprise. It was the last thing I expected. I tried to play it off, and tell myself that it was no big deal. I tried to convince myself that I just needed a bit of rest and that it would be ok. But the day after I knew it was really bad because I was swollen, in pain and couldn’t walk well. I knew I had to see the doctor then, and I rarely ever go in.

I was put in a compression sleeve and traction brace, and told to ice, elevate and rest it. I was also given specific stretches to do for the next few weeks, such as heel slides and seated leg raises.”

03. DID YOU KNOW WHAT AN ACL INJURY WAS?

“I did. I’ve had a minor tear before, so I was familiar with it. Although, the initial injury was years prior, so I had forgotten what a leg injury felt like. I had never had a meniscus surgery before, so that was new to me.”

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LOOKING FORWARD TO TRAINING SMARTER TO PROTECT MY KNEES.

04. WHERE AND BY WHOM DID YOU GET SURGERY?

“I had a meniscus repair surgery at Kaiser in the Bay Area, CA.”

05HOW DID THE SURGERY GO?

“I feel like it was a success. I have no pain, and my quality of life has drastically improved since the injury. I am still in the healing phase, but I am so positive about my recovery and rehabilitation. I hope to return to mountaineering training soon, and am looking forward to training smarter to protect my knees.”

06. WHERE DID YOU DO YOUR REHAB?

“I am currently in physical therapy at Kaiser, where I go once a week. I go to the gym everyday, and do supplemental workouts on my own, such as walking, swimming, spin bike and range of motion.”

07. HOW DID THE REHABS GO?

“Physical therapy is going great. I’m feeling and seeing progress every day!”

08. DO YOU CONSIDER THE PHYSICAL OR THE MENTAL PART TO BE THE TOUGHEST? AND WHY?

“Honestly, I think a great deal of this whole process has been mental. Having a positive outlook will help keep you motivated during tough times. There have been physical setbacks, such as the issues bending my knee past a certain degree. But I have hope that with hard work and time, it will get better. Pain is temporary. Situations are temporary. There’s a lot to be grateful for. There’s a lot you CAN do. See the larger goal. See the opportunities. Use this time to grow. And always know that there is a better tomorrow, because you can make it so. Show yourself how strong you are!”

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SHOW YOURSELF HOW STRONG YOU ARE!

09. HOW DID YOU EXPERIENCE YOUR COMEBACK?

“I am still in physical therapy, but I have returned to activities such as walking and certain gym workouts. I look forward to getting back to the activities I love soon. I think I can get back into cross-country skiing first, and just take it easy on the beginner trails. Mountaineering will definitely take a lot longer to get back into. I have to get my knee to bend fully, which has been a challenge, but I am seeing a lot of progress, and am better than I was before. I have stability in my knee, and no pain. That has been a game changer.”

10. ARE YOU PLAYING AND/OR TRAINING DIFFERENTLY NOW AFTER THE INJURY?

“I am definitely training differently. I learned to train smarter, not harder. I learned the importance of rest. I now prioritize mobility and injury prevention.”

11. WHAT WERE THE CONSEQUENCES OF THESE INJURIES IN RELATION TO YOUR CAREER?

“Luckily, a lot of my career can be done on the computer, so not too much. I did have to postpone a few projects where I would be out taking photos, but that ended up being ok. I got to do a lot of photo and video editing, graphic design and writing to keep busy. As far as my mountaineering goals, those were postponed, but I choose to see the bright side and use those to give me hope presently.”

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SEE THE OPPORTUNITIES IN TE SETBACKS.

12. WHAT WOULD BE YOUR ADVICE FOR ATHLETES WITH A SIMILAR INJURY?

“See the opportunities in the setbacks. Know that pain is temporary, and that you can do anything you put your mind to. Your outcome is dependent on your outlook, so definitely try to see the positive side. Put the work in. Take care of your body. Listen to your body. Make sure to prioritize rehabilitation, recovery and rest. You got this!”

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13. BEST ATHLETE WITH AN ACL INJURY HISTORY? 

I had to look this one up! I’d have to say Lindsey Vonn, but I’m biased because I’m a skier 😃

14. ANYTHING YOU’D LIKE TO ADD TO THIS INTERVIEW?

“Thank you so much for sharing my story! I look forward to connecting with other people going through a similar experience, and hopefully I can answer your questions, ease your fears and give you some motivation and support!!”

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THERE’S A LOT YOU CAN DO. SEE THE LARGER GOAL. SEE THE OPPORTUNITIES. USE THIS TIME TO GROW.

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Follow Kirsten’s recovery journey on her Instagram Page

Text: Jeroen van de Camp, Team-ACL.com