DR FRAME’S CRUCIAL CASE NOTES – MCL RECOVERY

Ex-racer and orthopaedic knee surgeon Mark Frame shares a tale of hope after adversity… 

With everything conspiring against us to get on a slope, I thought I’d buck the trend and shine some light on the possibility of maybe just getting some slushy skiing in this year. 

Fotolia.com

With the long game mentality in place, we must think about how we can maintain our Christmas ‘fitness’ and consolidate it for the end of the ski season grand finale. 

I like to consider myself as one of those ‘do as I say and not as I do’ kind of doctors, so I thought it might be interesting to give some insight into how I recovered from my own ski injury and begun my preparation for ski hols 2021. We will briefly gloss over the extensive eating of Toblerone and move on to the ski drama, knee and exercise tips… 

Well, it was a great day’s skiing with friends in Tignes; a fabulous morning making our way as far as we could across the ski map. We had a well-planned lunch stop at a restaurant at the very edge of said ski map, but as with so many of these long days out, we underestimated quite how far we had travelled. As such, we were faced with the complex spiderweb of pistes and lifts that required fast negotiation if we were to make it back to base before the lifts shut and we were left stranded.

In my haste I was shussing down a narrow path when one of my ‘best’ friends decided to cut in front of me. Misjudged (not helped by the long lunch, I imagine), his tails made contact with my tips and we tumbled around together in a puff of snow. Finally settled and counting our limbs, all seemed OK. Until I tried to turn left… I had managed to tear my medial collateral ligament (MCL): the ligament designed to stop your knee bending the wrong way side to side. 

After much swearing and right turning, and a €100 taxi ride, I made it back to the chalet. 

Thankfully, although a common injury, I didn’t need surgery, just physio.

However, getting an MRI quickly is important, as an MCL injury is often not in isolation. That twisting force can also damage your ACL and disc of meniscal cartilage that could be best served with immediate surgery. Generally, an MCL in isolation will heal on its own. In some rare circumstances if it doesn’t heal it may require reconstruction. 

It was a long haul for full recovery, which surprised me as a surgeon. Although it was so much better after six to 12 weeks, it took nearly a year to completely settle. You will be pleased to hear I am now back to full strength and have skied since without issue.

As for getting prepared for a possible 2021 ski trip, here is my advice: stay at home and follow the rules so we can do everything we can to get back on track. Oh, and work those quads too! 

Mr Mark Frame MBChB MRCS FRSC is a trauma and knee surgeon at the University Hospital Southampton/Spire Hospital. Go to wessex-knee.com.