By Joel Zanatta

The Cycling Lawyer

At the beginning of 2021 I crashed and badly injured my left knee.  Though I have experienced accidents before, I had always been lucky getting away with minor damage; not this time.  This crash left me with a ruptured ACL, a 3rd degree MCL tear and a detached meniscus.  In other words, my left knee was a complete dysfunctional  mess.

As a lawyer I have represented many injured cyclists.  I thought that I understood the physical and psychological impacts of injury – but I did not.  In the first month after my crash things got unexpectedly dark.  I was unable to weight bear and I was totally dependant on help from friends and family.  My lack of mobility and my inability to cycle brought me to the brink of depression.  I was unmotivated, over medicated and angry.

A lot goes through a person’s head when they are suffering from pain and disability.  Pain is insidious. It destroys motivation.  Though you can manage it with medication, the medication is a temporary band aid.  And, the medication in and of itself can be disabling.   As time passes you begin to wonder whether you will ever recover and what that recovery will look like.  Will you ever get back to form? Will you ever feel strong again?  To be honest, those are good questions and with any serious injury the answer to those questions is an unknown.

After a couple months of low mood and terrible pain I began to come to terms with my injury.  I quit most of the medication and slowly returned to spinning on a stationary bike.  Though my cadence was slow and my power was nominal getting back into the rhythm of cycling was remarkably therapeutic.  Finding a way to raise my heart rate and feel the calming effect of exercise induced euphoria was important.

Though my knee would swell up after activity, I believe that my return to the bike assisted me in staving off what could have been a major depression.

Two months ago I got incredibly lucky.  I was on a wait list for surgery and a last minute cancellation allowed me to get in for reconstructive knee surgery.  The surgery was largely successful and though the initial weeks post surgery were difficult I am now on the road to recovery.  I am now weight bearing and though I spend a good deal of time enviously watching others bike in this incredible spring weather I am more hopeful than ever that I too will be back on a bike before the sunshine turns to rain.

Though I wouldn’t wish a crash on any cyclist, I can honestly say that my crash taught me a lot.  The mental and physical toll of an injury can be overwhelming.  It is important to be patient with yourself and ever mindful of the strong link between pain and depression.  If you are injured, there are brighter days ahead, do whatever you can to remain optimistic and to focus on the incremental improvements. And most of all, be patient and forgiving of yourself.  With time and effort you will slowly recover.  And when you do, you will never take your health for granted again.

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