Succeeding and Thriving: Grant Cole

Grant Cole on rehab from ACL surgery and getting back to skiing!

Grant Cole has had a phenomenal knee rehabilitation. The ease and intelligence he approaches his body with inspired me to interview him. His message about the benefits of “dorky” physical therapy exercises and an optimistic, empowered mindset are staples for anybody going through the challenges of physical rehabilitation.

J: How did your ACL rupture?

G: It was a skiing accident last April, it was silly. The wet snow caught my ski and caused my ACL to pop. I didn’t even wipe out!

J: Was it a clean ACL rupture, or did you do any damage to the meniscus or the MCL?

G: Just the ACL.

J: What was your reaction when that first happened?

G: I was scared because I knew something happened, but I didn’t know what. Years before, I had a bad accident that shattered the Tibial Plateau on same leg- which was traumatic. So I knew what it was like to injure myself skiing when I tore my ACL in this accident. I was thinking, “do I need help? Can I get down by myself?” But I was able to slide down myself. I wasn’t alone, I had two friends. I was able to very slowly work my way off the mountain. I went to the ski patrol, and they did some basic tests. They didn’t say what the injury was, they basically just told me to go to a doctor, which I did the next day.

J: What was your reaction when you found out the ACL was ruptured?

G: It’s kind of interesting because they said surgery isn’t necessarily required these days, it’s a question of what you want to do. There’s activities that are difficult to do on a ruptured ACL that isn’t surgically repaired, and skiing is the one I would need to do. I’ve also got a buddy who skis well on 2 blown ACLs. The doctor pressed upon me that, regardless, the most important thing I could do in the short term is to do physical therapy for the leg, in the damaged state. So that’s when I came and saw you, you started giving me some exercises and that was basically the process towards that.

J: Prehab is a game changer.

G: Yeah, and then I went and saw Dan (Benson of Forefront Physical Therapy). Whenever I’ve injured myself, I see it as I’ve got this new job I inherited, which is to get better. And some people would ask is that a job I wanna take? It’s immediately in my mind that I’m going to take it! There’s no question. I’ll wake up in the morning and I’ll get out of bed and I’m going to deal with the process of rehabbing myself.

J: It sounds like you came to terms with the reality of the situation immediately.

G: In some ways it’s nice that I had prior injuries because I had done that before, so I went immediately into that mode. I know people have done this, it’s not a unique thing. Let’s get over the “woe is me thing” and just deal with it.

J: Nice. What was the first week after surgery like?

G: It was actually much better than I thought it would be. The doctor said I could walk right away and get rid of the crutches. The hardest thing was that I couldn’t apply ice to my knee for the first 24-48 hours because of the bandages. Once I started icing I could control the swelling quite a bit. Being able to ditch the crutches so early on was great. It felt empowering.

The day after surgery, I was laying on the couch, doing very passive range of motion on the knee. I laid on my back, held my leg up, and let the gravity slowly bring my leg towards a 90 degree bend.

J: Was that painful?

G: No not really.

J: Was it painful at all coming out of the surgery?

G: Not too bad. I had a bottle of pain pills, but only took two. Then I took some ibuprofen for a while. I didn’t take the heavy stuff for more than a day.

J: That’s awesome. How long was it before you started going to physical therapy?

G: I was ready for therapy after 2 weeks, but then Dan had his baby. That put it off for 7-10 days or something, so it was about 3-4 weeks. So I just started coming to ZUM and doing some of the prehab exercises. I had talked to the doctor and asked if I can just do these really basic things, and he said, “Sure, let pain be your guide. Don’t do too much. Keep it moving.”

J: Who was the doctor that did your surgery?

G: Dr. Chris Cannon of The Polyclinic, who I’d recommend to anybody who’s in the unfortunate position of needing the services of an orthopedic surgeon.

J: How were your spirits after having surgery?

G: Pretty good! I felt that it was progressing pretty well. I thought it was going to be a lot harder to get basic mobility, like walking up the stairs. Within a week it felt pretty good, things came back pretty quickly. I felt optimism and empowerment.

J: That’s awesome! A great mindset for healing.

G: Exactly. You’re making progress. You don’t feel trapped or powerless.

J: That’s great. So then you started seeing Dan Benson. What was your experience doing physical therapy with him?

G: It was great. He started off with very basic things. He’s a super optimistic guy. Even when I wasn’t doing the exercises well because of the state I was in, he would say “Good job, you’re doing great”. I was like “Yeah, OK, thanks!” I’m still seeing him every 2 weeks

J: How has your overall experience been with him?

G: Great great great. It’s interesting because it’s escalated to not just my knee but also dealing with some other back issues that I’ve had for a while. And some of that is related to poor biomechanics in my left hip area not my knee. The last 3 months has been just doing a little bit of time with my knee, and more time with those issues. He’s really helpful with that.

ACL rehab training

J: So where are you now in your rehab? What sort of things are you doing for your knee?

G: I’m starting to do running on the treadmill to get some pounding activity. Doing some agility ladder, basic change of direction, stepping in & out as you go along. And then some hopping on one leg side to side, that type of stuff. He’s also coaching me to use more glutes and less quads.

J: How does it feel to do these exercises?

G: Sometimes it’s a little frustrating because they’re so dorky and I feel like if I watch myself from above, I’m just repetitively doing these same dorky things.

J: What’s your goal with your rehab?

G: To ski next year without any inhibition.

J: Nice. What advice do you have for somebody who’s going through a rehab process?

G: That you can do it. Physical therapy will work. What I found to be super important is repetition. And sticking with it. My wife would tease me that right after I injured myself and right after surgery, I’d wake up an hour earlier every morning, go in front of the TV and just do dorky leg exercises to start to build things back up. Take an extra half an hour just to do that dorky stretching and/or exercises.

It does take discipline, and the key for me was deciding that this is what I want to do. I made that decision and didn’t ever question it. Even when it’s frustrating, just keep repeating it. The repetition of exercises is the key to the game in the long run.

The emotional side is you can do it. If you keep doing these dorky things, you’re going to get better. And that’s in your power to do it. Wake up, dust yourself off and keep going.

J: That’s awesome Grant. Thank you for taking the time to do this. These are important messages for people to hear. It can be pretty trying to go through rehabilitation and doing those dorky little exercises right? From my standpoint and watching you come in these past months, you’re doing a great job.

G: Thank you. I hope to get into the HardCore session soon.

J: Right on Grant, thank you.