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Old 09-13-2011, 04:10 AM   #1
alexwi
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degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hi all,

I am new to the forum, and also to aikido when it comes to that.

I wanted to share my experience, see whether you have any
thoughts/tips...(I have read many other posts on knee problems)

I am 41, and I started Aikdio about 6 months ago. I immediately fell
in love with it, what with the philosophical aspects and the harmony behind the techniques. This incidentally may have been counterproductive, as I started training way too much (weekend warrior like, I guess, although motivated by the passion for it). I sort of thought/believed I'd be fine, as I never had any real physical problems before...definitely not with the joints...

After a month of training, my knees started all of a sudden hurting
really badly, and after 2 months of rest an MRI sure enough confirmed a medial meniscus tear at my right knee.
A long story short, I did a PT cycle, which improved things, but I started having pain also at my left knee about a month ago, which another MRI confirmed being damaged too (again medial meniscus tear).

They were diagnosed as degenerative tears, but what strikes me is that it could all just happen so suddenly (are my cartilages just evaporating fast? one question for my surgeon this coming week
for sure). I don't know how much aikido contributed to that, but it
sure was a shock and somehow also depressed me a lot, as I would like to continue training (provided I can do it that is).

Now my questions to you guys (of course I will ask my doctor the same questions, I just want to see what other people from the aikido side think/lived through):

1) Can someone with degenerative menisucs tears practice aikido? (in case I didn't operate them, although I cannot think how I could, given the discomfort...damaged menisci are also apparently more prone to further damage)...one hope was that they might heal, but after 6 months it hasn't improved so much...

2) Can (should) one with trimmed degenerate menisci (the surgeon might not be able to stitch them) still practice (effectively)? My concern is also about the risk of further injury, kind of if it happened once, it is likely to happen again...

BTW anyone there who had arthroscopy at both knees at the same time? Am not sure how one could cope with both knees incapacitated though..

While being forced off the mat, I educated myself a lot on aikido, and was also wondering:

Are seated techniques absolutely fundamental? if so, one would argue that all those with injured knees will never be able to practice beyond a certain point (some in this forum actually mentioned that aikido includes these techniques for a very
good reason, and that to learn it properly they should be
practiced)...needless to say I feel sadness at the idea of not being able to train all the aspects/techniques somehow...

BTW Can forward rolls damage the knees? could someone please post what one should watch when it comes to that?

I read that in the past aikido training was a lot more demanding (a
certain school still practices that way): I guess we are not all made to practice martial arts? or maybe we don't all
have the same luck....will power is great, but all in all not always enough?

Thanks for any thoughts you may have!

Cheers,

Alex
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Old 09-13-2011, 04:44 AM   #2
Tim Ruijs
 
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

I am sorry to hear/read this.
It is never nice to find out that someone really likes Aikido and then is confronted with medical issues that may limit practise, or even worse, forces one to stop completely.

In class I always remind my students Aikido is Budo and the first rule of Budo is to protect yourself. This seemingly obvious rule is often forgotten when working on a technique. I see how people take ukemi and put themselves in danger, how they get up completely out of balance. Learning how to use your body correctly is very important (in Aikido). To properly use your body with limitations is off course possible, when you are disciplined to do so. After a while this becomes second nature and you will have adapted yourself.

In a forward roll your knees should not touch the floor...This sounds like bad technique that needs work.
when seiza hurts, do not to do seiza (for long)...

talk to your teacher about this and explain so he/she understands what you can and cannot do.

So unless there are severe medical issues not to practise, keep going strong, but remember Aikido is Budo. First rule in Budo is to protect yourself

In a real fight:
* If you make a bad decision, you die.
* If you don't decide anything, you die.
Aikido teaches you how to decide.
www.aikido-makato.nl
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Old 09-13-2011, 07:47 AM   #3
SteveTrinkle
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hello, I had arthroscopic surgery on both knees for torn menisci (not at the same time, however) I'm glad I had the surgery. After about 6 weeks off the mat and a slow and careful return, both knees (now 57 years old) are functioning well. They take a bit of care to warm up, but I can do suwari waza (which I love and find very helpful in learning to move from center) with little trouble. I take a glucosamine supplement and a fish oil supplement daily which I'm told is good to do. Beyond the general problems of decrepitude, I've got few complaints.

That's my experience anyway.
Best of luck,
Steve

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Old 09-13-2011, 07:57 AM   #4
philipsmith
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

I've had menisci removed from both knees - first at age 21 second last year (age 51).

Never stopped training although I did rehab properly from both ops.

My experience is that yours knees will retain their function although they may be sore after prolonged training. I now use volleyball kneepads for both Aikido and Iai-do which help a lot.
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:18 AM   #5
eva
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

I think that it should be possible for you to keep training. Listen to your body and decide what you can do without pain.
I had a torn ACL and some minor meniscus damage and restarted training as soon as I was allowed.
Following surgery I took rehab very serious. Which I think you should do as well. Then I don't see why you should stop practicing. I know a lot of people with some sort of knee damage who train in aikido or other martial arts regularly. It might just mean that you have to sometimes adapt what you are doing to keep your knees safe or to prevent pain.
Make sure your instructors and training partners know that you have some knee issues so it's clear to them why you might adapt a few things or why you don't do certain things.

Eva
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:33 AM   #6
Peter Goldsbury
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hello Mr Wilde,

I would advise you to be extremely careful.

I had two ops, like Philip, removal of the medial meniscus of both knees, but within six months of each other. This happened in 1975 (I was 31), when medical knowledge was not as advanced as it is now. Since then I have had over 35 years of good training (including suwariwaza), but degeneration has set in and one can accelerate or decelerate the process, but one cannot stop it altogether. Recently my left knee hurt and continued to hurt during two week-long seminars in Holland, but a recent X-ray showed that there had been no deterioration of the joint since the previous X-ray in 2007. I found periodic injections of sodium hyaluronate helped quite a lot.

However, the recent discomfort is due to a baker's cyst (a build-up of fluid) around and especially behind the left knee joint. My orthopedic surgeon attributes this to a degenerative tear in the lateral meniscus of the left knee. This was not caused directly by aikido training.

I undergo rolfing massage one a week and this is very good. I also know of an excellent masseuse, a specialist in what is called Jag therapy. The only problem is that she lives in Brunei and I live in Hiroshima. But when I taught a seminar in Brunei a couple of years ago, I had a massage session every day and my knees gave no trouble at all. So, If I had the money, I would retire to Brunei...

Finally, if you are overweight, you really need to lose the excess. When you are my age, this is a major challenge.

Best wishes,

P Goldsbury

PS. A few days ago, I thought of a pin for 1-kyo that did not involve seiza. I tested it today during class.

Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 09-13-2011 at 08:36 AM.

P A Goldsbury
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Old 09-13-2011, 08:59 AM   #7
AsimHanif
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hi Alex,
I had torn menisci and cartilage damage on the same knee. After surgery (1 yr ago) the menisci is fine, the cart is about 90%.
I worked on building up the muscles supporting the knees and I am very careful how I now pivot.
Hope that helps.
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Old 09-13-2011, 09:10 AM   #8
alexwi
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Thanks to you all for your answers! I find them very encouraging!

Philip, did you also have degenerate menisci?

I have already started taking supplements that might (I hope) delay the onset of any arthritis (glucosamine), and as for my weight I am slim (79kg for 186 cms)…

Peter, I also have baker's cysts, my doc told me not to worry about them…and yes my knees also have a fluid build-up, which is why I was recommended to operate, as in the long term this could be a problem.

jag therapy and Brunei: I also wish I had the means/time to go for it (in which case I would probably also try the stem cells therapy)...
My other hope is that in a few years time science might find a less intrusive and more effective treatment for these problems…

I of course would like to continue training (while being super careful of course!)….never thought I'd fall in love with a martial art at my age, funny to think of it, it should have happened when I was 20!

For the time being, while waiting to see my surgeon to fix the operation, I do PT regularly to keep my muscles tight and strong…

Thanks to you all again!

Alex
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Old 09-13-2011, 10:43 AM   #9
Janet Rosen
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

I had surgery for torn ACL and torn medial meniscus about 10 yrs ago.
For some people, the imbalance created between the femur and the tibia by an uneven or partly absent meniscus leads to early onset of osteoarthritis (loss of the cartilage at the far end of the femur) that can be painful and disabling.
Whatever you decide, making sure to do the best healing and rehab you can is absolutely critical.
I would encourage you to consider continuing with aikido BUT first working with your orthopedist/physiatrist and your PT to make sure they understand how the body is used in aikido AND to get clear guidelines from them on higher risk activities within aikido you may want to avoid in order to minimize risk of both future acute injury and development of arthritis (my own advice would be avoiding suwariwaza and also avoiding any throws that involve torquing and twisting , which are not seen in some styles of aikido but are present in some).

Janet Rosen
http://www.zanshinart.com
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 09-13-2011, 11:28 PM   #10
Michael Varin
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hello Alex,

I have commented on this before, so you may have seen a similar response from me on other threads. But here it goes again...

I am a surgery is a last option type of guy, and obviously can't make this decision for you.

I have seen studies that show around 30% of athletes have full thickness defects in the menisci when viewed on a MRI, but only about half of those had symptoms. Studies have shown similar patterns with the patellar tendon.

Physicians frequently don't know as much as they think they do, and are increasingly leaving diagnosis up to machines.

The point is, the way we move and align our bodies, the mobility of adjacent joints, and the balance (or lack thereof) of our muscles has a lot to do with the amount of pain we feel.

Improve your hip and ankle mobility, stop sitting all day long, get your glutes and hamstrings stronger, and do foam rolling (self-myofascial release) daily before you opt for surgery.

Checkout Bulletproof Knees.

-Michael
"Through aiki we can feel the mind of the enemy who comes to attack and are thus able to respond immediately." - M. Mochizuki
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Old 09-14-2011, 12:27 AM   #11
gates
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hello Alex,

I would concur with a lot of what Michael has suggested. I will be reading his link with considerable interest, so thanks Mike.

I often see a lot of poor alignment, especially in beginners, letting their knees point in completely different directions to their feet and ankles. Foot pronation/supination is not going to help matters either.

The correct position of your knee over your ankle when pivoting is also critical to stop excess torsion in the knee joint. As there are lots of pivots and turns in Aikido any miss-alignment will potentially cause problems.

Are you aware of whether you hold good alignment? Is this something you have considered? A trip to physio may be helpful to assess your alignment, this type of thing is their specialization.

All the best
Keith

Enjoy the journey
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Old 09-14-2011, 03:43 AM   #12
alexwi
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hi Keith and Michael,

I would also like to avoid surgery. The first doctor I went to recommended it as the only solution, which I was a bit suspicious about (after few visits I just didn't trust him).
I went to see another one (a sport specialist actually), and he put me on PT for few months, see whether it could get fixed (or just improve enough) that way…

So I did PT already, and the PT guy did not mention any problem with my balance (you never know I guess though)...

Quite frankly if it weren't for the fluid build up in the knee, I would probably give it another few months…
I also checked with a third doctor, and he agreed with the second one…

Hi Janet,

Yes, I will take my time to do full rehab first, before going back to the mat…I have already mentioned my condition at a dojo and it doesn't seem to be a problem i.e. no suwariwaza and seiza is ok…

My actual concern with the degenerate nature of the damage is that any sport or physical activity other than what is strictly required to keep in shape (e.g. swimming), might speed up further damage and open the doors for more and more problems…had this been a pure and clear tear of an otherwise healthy meniscus, I'd be less worried…

Thanks again for your advice!

Cheers,

Alex
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Old 09-15-2011, 05:21 AM   #13
SteliosPapadakis
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hi Alex!
When i was in my late teens i got involved in weight training. Brainless and without a proper tutor, i manged to completely destroy the insides of both my knees pushing 800lbs in the leg press for many years... Almost no cartilage left in there at all...
This led to pain, many times in the red alert agonising scale, esp when standing for much long and it deterred me for many years in starting a martial art. i also had to quit my job as a truck driver because of the pain... I did many pgysiotherapy sessions but no aparent improvement. Nothing but pain...
Now, when i joined my first Aikido class my main concern was "will the knees fail soon enough? Will i manage to go through the entire lesson? "
8 Years have passed since that afternoon... and all i can say is that because my Aikido teachers have been "good teachers" in the sense that every movement was calculated in efficiency and so as to do no harm to any body part, my knees strengthened, partially recoverd and they will hurt only if i push them to extremes. Yes, there is still some pain, esp when standing up after taking loads of ukemis but nothing compared to the past.
For me, Aikido enhanced my knees' ability to recover to an extend, tought me how to stand, how to avoid painful manouvers and made my life pain-free.
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Old 09-15-2011, 06:22 AM   #14
alexwi
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hi Stelios,

Thanks for your e-mail!
Did you get an operation at your knees? is it worn out bone cartilage you have, or are your menisci also damaged?

I think as you said, the option would be to continue, planning every single movement/action taking place at a lesson (the teacher here would also make the difference I guess), and making sure to be 100% at all times when doing it…

BTW do you do suwariwaza or seiza?

Thanks again!
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Old 09-15-2011, 11:23 AM   #15
Michael Hackett
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hi Alex,

I injured my right knee during training - although I don't have any idea whether aikido had anything to do with the injury or it was a coincidence. After a long series of PT and no real improvement, I ended up consulting with a well-respected orthopod who is oriented to sports injuries and a karateka himself. An MRI revealed a tear in one miniscus and I opted for surgery. The surgery revealed a tear in the second meniscus and the doctor trimmed and smoothed both.

Back to PT for several weeks and then back on the mat. Suwariwaza is no problem, but long periods of seiza can be troubling. For the first few months I was excessively careful of the knee, waiting for something bad to happen. Eventually I began to trust the stability of the knee and have had no problems at all. Besides aikido, I continue to work with kettlebells (including swings and squats) and in the gym with both leg presses and machine squats.

For me, I truly believe the key was the physical therapy after the surgery. I approached that aggressively and took the position that "if a little is good, a whole lot is better." It paid off for me, but probably isn't too wise as my PT folks told me after the fact.

I hope you have even better success with your healing.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 09-15-2011, 11:24 AM   #16
Michael Hackett
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Oh, I forgot to mention something else that might be helpful. I suspect your doctors and PT folks know nothing about aikido. I suggest that you show them a video so they understand the demands of the art and can give you better counsel.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 09-15-2011, 03:53 PM   #17
philipsmith
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hi Alex,
yes I did have adegenerate meniscus this time; 30 years ago it was a traumatic injury.
Michael I would disagree with showing your surgeon and/or PT Aikido as they will advise against continued participation.
I am a trained Physiotherapist and senior lecturer in Sports Therapy (the UK equivalent of an athletic trainers) and know that Aikido produces a lot of knee stress.
That is why proper conditioning is important
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Old 09-15-2011, 04:35 PM   #18
Michael Hackett
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Mr. Smith,
I think you are off-base with your disagreement. Most physicians and physical therapists simply have no idea what aikido requires and are thus unable to give their best treatment or advice without being informed. It would be foolish to "hide the ball" from them in hopes that they won't give you undesired direction. By giving them the best information possible, they, in turn, can give you their best advice and treatment. Both my surgeon and PT gave me specific advice to protect my knee and worked me through a variety of exercises that would help prevent injuries in the future.

Michael
"Leave the gun. Bring the cannoli."
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Old 09-15-2011, 04:44 PM   #19
alexwi
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Hi Philip,

I am wondering, was your meniscus just trimmed, or completely removed a year ago? I am asking, in case it effectively means that the degeneration can lead to total destruction/loss of it...

As for the video of aikido to be shown to my surgeon, as he is a sport specialist he probably has seen other hard impact cases etc, but I will think about it. One thing he said though when suggesting PT first, was that should symtoms subside I'd be able to start training again.

My concern is that training with degenreate menisci (whether operated or not) is at a higher risk than training with a non degenerative meniscus tear (whether trimmed or not)...although it seems people here are still training without menisci and with cartilage damage, which I find very hopeful...

BTW I just bought a foam roller and gave it my first..ehm roll

Alex
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Old 09-15-2011, 05:50 PM   #20
Janet Rosen
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Quote:
Michael Hackett wrote: View Post
Mr. Smith,
I think you are off-base with your disagreement. Most physicians and physical therapists simply have no idea what aikido requires and are thus unable to give their best treatment or advice without being informed. It would be foolish to "hide the ball" from them in hopes that they won't give you undesired direction. By giving them the best information possible, they, in turn, can give you their best advice and treatment. Both my surgeon and PT gave me specific advice to protect my knee and worked me through a variety of exercises that would help prevent injuries in the future.
As a disabled but active aikidoist and an RN I'm w/ Michael on this : docs and PTs have no idea the way we use our bodies in aikido, they are invariably surprised and have to reshape their thinking about best processes and best outcomes based on the high demands of our art. You end up w/ MUCH better rehab with this.

Janet Rosen
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Old 09-15-2011, 06:48 PM   #21
aikidoc
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

I have decreased joint space on the medial side right knee. I also have a re-tear of the meniscus-surgery in 1993-re-tear in fall 2010. Synvisc One is wonderful. I get them shot up every 6 months. I don't do much seiza anymore. I have students with good knees and I let them do the suwariwaza. Trying to avoid 2nd surgery. Hyalgan healed my left knee of two tears-lateral and medial in 2000-immediate hyalgan shots. MRI in Fall 2010 showed no tear. I teach 6 classes a week: 3-2 hour and 3-1.5 hour.
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Old 09-15-2011, 09:35 PM   #22
matty_mojo911
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Our knees are designed for a range of movements, as we all know, primarily a forward up and down movement though. Many Aikido movements in particular the circling/pivoting on a foot will place a lot of stress on the knee ligaments and miniscus.

Westerners really struggle with a lot of kneeling work compared to Japanese, is it just that they are used to it? Why do you think?
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Old 09-15-2011, 10:24 PM   #23
Keith Larman
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

My ditto comment...

Lots of injuries here. Knees, back, shoulder, and on and on. My first physical therapist was a young woman who had 3 years under her belt in Aikido herself. She knew what I was doing. A few years later went to a new guy, very good, very well known, works a lot with professional sports teams. He asked about what I did. Then he asked if I could bring him some videos of what we do. Which I did. He then came back with recommendations, exercises, etc. geared towards what I was doing.

Do not waste your time going to a doctor/physical therapist if you're going to hold back information or simply disregard their advice. Give them the information they need to work with you correctly.

Just my experience.

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Old 09-15-2011, 11:27 PM   #24
Janet Rosen
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Quote:
Peter A Goldsbury wrote: View Post
.

PS. A few days ago, I thought of a pin for 1-kyo that did not involve seiza. I tested it today during class.
Would you share? What I do off of ikkyo and nikkyo as standing pins is to just switch, once uke is faceplanted, to standing sankyo pin.

Janet Rosen
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"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 09-15-2011, 11:54 PM   #25
kewms
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Re: degenerate menisci: end of aikido training?

Quote:
Keith Larman wrote: View Post
Do not waste your time going to a doctor/physical therapist if you're going to hold back information or simply disregard their advice. Give them the information they need to work with you correctly.
This.

Anyone used to dealing with athletes should understand that abandoning your sport -- be it football or aikido -- is simply not an option, and will be willing to work with you to maximize your capacity and minimize further injury. If they're not, find someone else, but hiding information from them wastes both your time and theirs.

My own experience -- with shoulders, not knees -- is that the mobility level most doctors consider "normal" is barely adequate for aikido. If they don't know what you want to do, how can they possibly help you do it?

Katherine

Last edited by kewms : 09-16-2011 at 12:04 AM.
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