So that’s what’s wrong with the knees

Posted: March 20, 2013 by shawnfury in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

A few months after first experiencing pain in both knees and a week after writing about what it had done to my fading basketball career, I finally made it to the doctor Tuesday. It rained much of the day in New York City, giving me something else to blame for the ache in my knees as I wandered to the subway.

I visited the same doctor I saw a year and a half ago with the same problem, although this time my knee actually hurt when I visited him in the office, decreasing the likelihood he thought I was faking the injury.

I didn’t know if X-rays or an MRI might be in order, although I figured they would be — how else would he diagnose the potentially life-altering injury that had affected both of my knees these past few months, both on and off the court? Even though he’s an orthopedic surgeon, I pictured him emailing the results to top knee specialists around the city, if not the country. If Dr. James Andrews was on a break from being bullied by Mike Shanahan about Robert Griffin III, perhaps he could offer an opinion or his hands for the future double-surgery.

Instead the diagnosis came within about a minute, shortly after the doctor felt the kneecap, moved my leg and made small talk.

“It’s patellofemoral pain syndrome,” he said, and my first question was about how to spell it. Only when I returned home did I discover the first part is a single word. Patellofemoral pain syndrome — PFPS for the layman — is a “syndrome characterized by pain or discomfort seemingly originating from the contact of the posterior surface of the patella (back of the kneecap) with the femur (thigh bone). It is the most frequently encountered diagnosis in sports medicine clinics.”

That’s from Wikipedia, not the doctor, although in a way it is. He told me to Google it and to check out some of the physical therapies used to help with it.

I still wondered what caused the pain. A week ago my uncle Jerry, a standout athlete in his younger days who’s now north of 50 and has suffered various afflictions to his once sturdy body, emailed me and wondered, gently, if perhaps the fact I was a bit heavier than I was in my younger days could be affecting my knees. I wanted to scoff but I had to admit it could be a possibility. The doctor confirmed Jerry’s speculation.

“What’s your BMI?” he asked and I had no idea. When I told him I was 6-3, 220-225 pounds — of pure-bred Minnesota muscle, I didn’t add — he said that wasn’t bad. For normal, everyday things it’d be fine. But on a basketball court, which is hard on knees as it is, much less ones in pain? It could be better. He also said 37 is not 27 and that I could stand to lose a few pounds simply because the extra weight puts pressure on the knee and if I dropped 10-15 pounds it would probably alleviate much of my suffering. He mentioned getting down to “two-hundo” but let’s not be absurd. I probably last saw 200 in 2000 and both are a long ways in the past.

So I’ll find a physical therapist and do some work with them and then get some exercises I can do at home. Building up the quads sounds like it’s the main thing. He also said I should stretch before playing basketball, a foreign concept to me. I can keep playing as well and a brace wouldn’t really help, he said, so I can avoid that old man accessory for a bit longer.

Rest is also obviously supposed to help and that’s fine as long as it doesn’t mean retiring. Dropping some pounds and picking up some physical therapy hints, that’s the remedy to the knees that ache even as I type this. The doctor mentioned a diet he’d done that could work for me — something about eating very little two days of the week and then eating anything you want the rest of the time.

When I told him I drank four or five sodas a day and that I’d always heard eliminating that from your diet could lead to a 15-pound weight loss in a year, his eyes widened.

“Well, yeah! Four or five? Really? Forget any diet. You get rid of that soda and you’ll be right where you need to be. Try some flavored Seltzer.”

I went in to the doctor fearing I’d have to give up hoops for awhile. I left fearing I’ll have to give up soda. Wait, doc, what was that diet you mentioned?

  1. Good to know, saves me a trip to the knee doctor and also the dietician. Thanks Shawn! Good luck with the soda, what a disgusting habit!

  2. Around the first of the year I decided weight loss and better (i.e. any) detail to fitness were in order. I’ve been more than pleased with the results. Besides working out 4-5x a week and watching my calories I’ve basically cut out soda. Over the first 2.5 months of 2013 I’ve limited myself to a total of 3 Diet Cokes and no other soda (minus the occasional rum & coke/diet coke). Water has been the primary replacement. I won’t kid you, the loss of soda flavor is a bummer but I do feel more hydrated on a daily basis.

  3. shawnfury says:

    A disgusting habit, Joe? Damn you and Bloomberg! My dentist is the other one who yells at me for soda because it’s apparently the worst thing you can do for teeth. Now this.

    That’s the thing, Dan, it’s not necessarily the caffeine that I need. I love the taste of Coke/Mountain Dew/Dr Pepper/Pepsi. Water is so boring.

    I pictured you still being in good shape anyway, since it seems like all old track guys usually maintain some type of fitness (maybe that’s a stereotype, I’m sure there are a lot of chunky old 100-meter guys walking around). Three Diet Cokes total…very impressive. The other thing though is working out four to five times a week. As I’ve said before…working out doesn’t work for me unless there’s a ball involved.

  4. Soda was never about the caffeine for me either. I get plenty of that from coffee. As a kid we just always had it around. On our biweekly pilgrimages to the Mankato Cub we’d stock up on whatever 24 packs were on sale…Coke products…Pepsi products….we weren’t brand loyal. We were only loyal to the price. Though Mt Dew was always welcomed to the shopping cart.

    Dentists have always given me a hard time about my soda consumption. Whenever they ask how many I drink a day I always feel like a cocaine addict admitting an addiction to a sponsor. There is always a tremendous amount of guilt.

    The funny thing is I wasn’t noticeably out of shape. With a wedding coming up though it seemed like a good time to get back to my playing weight. The hardest thing has been I don’t enjoy running mileage. Besides having some decent speed I my hatred of running for miles or minutes at a time was enough to keep me in the sprints. Truth be told though the 800m not the 400, should probably have been my event. I’ve slowly found myself doing some 40 minute or 4-5 mile runs. If it wasn’t for my iPhone I don’t know if I could do it.

  5. Jerry says:

    On the bright side it isn’t the dreaded blown Achilles…

  6. Mike says:

    Did you mention your Skittles or Kit Kat consumption?

  7. Pat Fury says:

    Another thing with all the soda is Type 2 diabetes which has reared it’s ugly head among the male members of the Fury family.


  8. shawnfury says:

    Every day I get a Big Gulp or large Dr Pepper at McDonald’s. Yesterday I joked to my car pool driver, who orders at drivethrough, that I’d take a small instead of a large. I then said, “No, large.” She only heard the joke and gave me a small.

    I survived and so my soda consumption was decreased quite a bit yesterday.

    Also, at basketball, after three straight turnaround jumpers from the free throw line, the defender compared me to “Larry Bird.” So maybe the small soda was the key.

    The Kit Kat and Skittles consumption…it’s not totally out of control although they remain my favorites. (and when back in Janesville, Mom Fury stocks the fridge with Kit Kats and then they are an issue).

  9. […] debacles involving the New York City school system. A few weeks into it my knees ached and after a doctor told me I was too fat and needed to learn stretching exercises, they started to improve a bit before falling apart again over the past month. Unnamed sources […]

  10. […] when I felt my knees aching during basketball. First I dreaded what was wrong with them. And then I got the diagnosis. And this fall? I was back, again, ready to suffer. I also need to play because giving it up — […]

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