Bad Knees to New Knees: One Man's Story

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My friend Al Wise and I have been playing tennis with and against each other for 20 years. I think he's ahead in victories but I'm ahead in the category that really matters. I'm still playing on my god-given knees and he's about to trade his in for two manufactured ones.

Enjoy 'em while you got 'em, athletes. Here's one man's story of injury, decline, and hopefully recovery next year.

"My decision on my knees was "years in the making"

I had my first Knee operation in 1966, between my junior and senior years in college, playing basketball. They took out the "whole meniscus" from my right knee. About seven years later, medical science changed their philosophy and started clipping the meniscus. So my right knee was doomed without much padding present. The right knee only started bothering me in 1992, some 26 years later, following the running of a marathon in 1991 and a whole lot of tennis.

The pain started to dramatically increase following any singles tennis match. I got used to the discomfort like everyone else and I used the ice, pills, cream, etc. If I was not playing tennis, I had no discomfort. Travel, vacation, life — no problem.

The left knee went downhill, leading up to an operation in 1996. Still I was able to play singles. Two years later I had another operation and then for the first time I was experiencing pain regardless whether I played tennis or not. A key point in my life was when I had discomfort from just standing on a hard concrete floor or sitting in a theater or arena. I was now getting my knee drained quarterly.

By about 2004, I was down to twice a week in tennis doubles and once a week by 2008. As the years rolled by, more and more I lost a little more contact with tennis friends as I was only able to play once a week and only a mediocre quality level at best. Eventually I gained more and more weight, and became totally out of shape. I weighed 185 lbs in 1991 when I was #1 in the 45s in Tennessee and now weigh 219. I was not whacked out that I was up 30 pounds but it was a negative experience for me to participate in sports.

Finally in March of 2009, coming through the Atlanta airport from Hilton Head, my legs were killing me as I chased flights from one terminal to the next. I was a physical wreck and could not keep up with my wife. That is when I said to myself, that is it, I am doing it. I did not tell anybody else but myself and the doctor while he was draining my knee and shooting Cortisone in me. The two doctors that I have had have been very reserved about promoting the surgery solution.

But that's where I am now. Replacement surgery Tuesday."

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