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Hockey injury presents physiotherapist surgery alternative

A torn ACL has led St John of God Warrnambool Hospital Physiotherapist Karen Benson to becoming a patient, but not in the way she first expected.

St John of God Warrnambool Hospital ACL rehab28 November 2019 

When Karen heard a pop in her right knee while playing hockey earlier this year her first thought was that she had torn her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).

An MRI confirmed her initial fears. 

“I have never had knee issues or injuries before. I live a very active life and was worried that surgery would restrict my work and family responsibilities,” Karen said.

Instead of surgery, Karen is doing a 12-week program at St John of God Warrnambool Hospital’s outpatient gym to build up her strength to keep her knee stable.

“This was a really appealing option for me and I started to look into the research which showed that in some cases, up to 50 per cent of people who tear their ACL do not need surgery to get back to their daily activities,” she said.

“It has been wonderful to go into the hospital and get access to support from the range of clinicians who guide me every step of the way through my recovery to ensure I have the best chance of successful rehabilitation.

“Spending a few hours each week doing specific rehabilitation in the gym was better for my lifestyle and I have enjoyed meeting the other patients who are doing their own rehabilitation.”

Karen said she wanted to make other people aware of the different treatment options available for knee injuries.

“My first thought was that I would need surgery and be off my feet for a number of months, so it was a big relief to know that I could try this and get the care close to home,” she said.

“Even if I do need surgery, I will benefit from having done a lot of work already to strengthen my leg muscles.”

St John of God Warrnambool Hospital Chief Executive Officer Jo Bell said the hospital’s outpatient rehabilitation programs assisted patients with a range of services to support their care after surgery or to manage ongoing conditions.

“Karen’s experience is a great example of how we can help people access care that they may not have considered in the first instance but enables them to get back on their feet and doing what they love once again,” she said.

“Our outpatient programs are really popular and we offer a comprehensive range of services to enable patients to continue their recovery close to home.”