Hiep Doan

What did I learn recovering from ACL injury?

April 28, 2017

There is always something good in a bad thing. Nearly a year ago, I ruptured my anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) during a football match, which then followed by an almost year-long recovery. Now I can start to run slowly and soon I might be able to play football again.

I would never say the accident was fortunate for me. But I have been lucky to learn so much by recovering from the injury. In this writing, I will share my three most important lessons and their impact.

Your body is not immortal

If you are like me, 27-year-old dude who have been lucky to have a pretty decent health, play some amount of sport — sometimes be the guy who physically dominates during the football match, it would be hard to imagine one day you cannot stand on your feet, let alone walking.

In these golden year of life, your body recovers so quick, so well that you think it will be like that forever. But it’s not. Fast forward 20 or 30 years from now, most of us will be suffering from some significant reduction of our body function. If you do not believe me, check this out.

Getting ACL injury then going through the operation for me is like a trip to the future, where I see myself struggling to perform basic daily operations like standing or making coffee on my own. Someday it will repeat — because your body is not immortal. Like my doctor said “Your knee’s problem, after your fifty year-old, it will come back. It’ll come back someday”.

And as soon as I realize my body is not staying like this for long, I know I must take a good care of it. It not like putting my body in a permanent shield — it will not prevent aging anyway but it means that I would try to be nice with my body, live more healthily and play sport more safely.

You will be better at things that you practice, it just takes time

2 months after the operation, I could barely stand on my own feet. The moment I got rid of the crutches for the first time, I though I would never stand again. I could not stabilize my left leg. Nor could I stretch it. I was scary.

But somehow I made it. Shortly 1 week after, I can stand. Then I can walk, not so stably. Then I can walk stably. I can squad, with 20 kg, then 40 kg and more. Now I can run slowly. Probably in few weeks I will run like I did last year.

You cannot see the big picture if you give up too soon.So things do improve. It just takes a lot of time and persistence. And it is not a linear process, you just cannot guarantee that today it’s going to be a better than yesterday, but ignore the bad day and continue to practice.

There is always a possible Z for the equation “I will become as good as X at Y after Z days”. If you have not become X yet, maybe your Z is just not big enough. Keep calm and do not give up too soon.

It’s always better to fail as early as possible

I was lucky to recover from my injury. It was not easy. But it’s probably easier than if I have the same injury in 10 or 20 years. And this is true for many things apart from normal physical accident.

If you want to try new career direction, try it now because even if it fails, you can get back easier. When you get older, it might be more difficult to learn new things, make new friends or just give up your existing successful career to start a new one from scratch. If you want to found a startup, do it now. You will just have more time to start other startups if this one fails, let alone other benefit.

Thus, if you are wondering to try a new thing now, do it as early as possible, because if it fails, it it better fail as early as possible.

This article is also posted on Medium.

Hiep Doan

Written by Hiep Doan, a software engineer living in the beautiful Switzerland. I am passionate about building things which matters and sharing my experience along the journey. I also selectively post my articles in Medium. Check it out!