In the winter of my 7th grade year, call it early 1973, I had the extreme misfortune of having my right knee injured. The junior high school I attended brought the students inside the gym on cold or snowy days. We were supposed to sit quietly in the bleachers until classes started. On this day I was bumped or pushed from behind and accidently kicked the kid in front of me with my snowy boot. He took great offense and grabbed my foot and twisted through 180 degrees of rotation before I could do anything about it.
At the time it hurt but once he let go the pain seemed to go away too. The next morning I was unable to dress myself for school as my jeans wouldn’t go up over my knee; it had swollen to several times its normal size. I remember my mother being upset that I woke her; she just wanted me to “get dressed and go to school”, but when she realized that my leg was in such bad shape she took me to the doctor. The x-rays were apparently inconclusive, I have a vague recollection of someone saying there was too much swelling to see anything clearly.
I spent the next 3 or 4 weeks hobbling around the school on crutches - not at all an easy feat in a 1930s building with three stories and rather steep stairways. Over the years since then I have had some intermittent pain in my right knee. And I can flex the calf muscle and cause the knob at the top of the fibula move in and out of its normal position; kind of a circus freak show bit.
In my twenties and thirties I had sporadic bouts of knee pain, sometimes more debilitating than others, but never crippling. In college one of my roommates got lots of laughs mimicking my gait. Until he showed me how I walked I didn’t realize that instead of bringing my right leg forward the way most people did, I sort of threw it ahead of me in an arc. Thanks to the hard work of a good chiropractor I managed to lose most of the hitch in my get along.
Over the past few years I’ve been more and more aware of my knee (both of them actually) as they at times produce a crackling noise, like rice krispies when they bend. Again, more circus freak show than painful. But in the last few months I’ve noticed an increase in overall discomfort, pain even, walking or sitting. And one weekend about a month ago my knee was very painful and slightly swollen. I decided it was time to learn more about what was going on in there.
Today I had a visit with the orthopedic surgeon, who took several large format x-rays of my knee. Turns out that the injury from 32 years ago was a torn medial collateral ligament, the MCL. The x-ray clearly showed a healed bone chip at the upper ligament anchor point. His theory was the injury in 1973 was bad enough to tear the ligament away from the bone. Wow. No wonder this joint has been the source of so much pain and consternation.
His diagnoses for the current pain and stiffness is arthritis. So I’m taking two Aleve twice a day for the next two months to see if that relieves my pain. If yes, arthritis is the culprit. If no, an MRI will be necessary if I want to know more.