An unexpected setback

Fabrice Cofrini/AFP/Getty Images

Lindsey Jacobellis is busy rehabbing after a second ACL surgery in December. She hopes to return to the snow late this year.

The last thing you want to hear almost a year after ACL surgery and a little more than a year before the Olympics is, “I’m not even sure you have an ACL.”

That’s what my doctor told me on Dec. 18. I was just beginning to get back into boardercross but had started feeling pain again. On that day in mid-December, I got an MRI that found my repaired ACL had stretched to the point it wasn’t functioning properly. Enter surgery No. 2. The doctor was able to get me in the very next day, so my holiday plans did a 180 pretty quickly. I decided to be out in Vail, Colo., and have the surgery before staying in Park City, Utah, to heal rather than going home to Stratton, Vt., for Christmas.

It was a total fluke, but it’s really good we caught it when we did. Otherwise, I could have gotten hurt just as I returned to my sport, or, even worse, fallen at a random time later on -- even closer to the Olympics than we are now. Apparently, I’m among a special 3 percent of people who experience this following ACL surgery. Doctors don’t understand why it happens, but the skin graft they took from my hamstring slowly stretched the entire year I was rehabbing. So for the second surgery, an allograft from a cadaver was used.

Thankfully, the second surgery wasn’t nearly as intense as the first. I wasn’t even on crutches for a week this time, whereas I was on crutches for 10 weeks following my first surgery. And I didn’t lose nearly as much muscle mass this time around.

Courtesy of Lindsey Jacobellis

Lindsey Jacobellis with her dog, Gidgit, and father, Ben, snowboarding in Vermont before her ACL injury.

Still, it was tough when I found out I was going to have surgery again because I hadn’t done anything wrong. I didn’t cause my ACL to fail. It’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I did everything right, and it still didn’t work out. But I’m moving forward. I’m hoping to get back on the snow in June. For now, I’ll be here in Park City logging hours of therapy every day because that’s all I can really do.

For now, my “teammates” are the other injured people here at the training center. Sports teams come through in waves, but for the most part, it’s pretty dead other than those of us who are here doing our therapy. We’re there for each other emotionally because we all have our down days. Some days you are the voice of reason, and other days you’re the one who needs someone to talk to. It’s a supportive group.

I spend five hours at the gym every day -- at least two hours working on my leg and then the rest on my upper body, core and on my right leg (the good one). I’m swimming a lot, although I’m not allowed to kick. That’s the only cardio I can do that gets my heart rate up. I also ride the spin bike, but I have to keep the resistance so low it’s not much of a workout. Luckily, I love exercising so the endorphins are a good pick-me-up if I feel down.

Obviously, I’d rather be snowboarding, but there are some upsides. I got to check out the Sundance Film Festival for the first time this year. Usually, I’m on the road when it’s in town, and even if I were here I wouldn’t have the energy to go out to a party or meet up with friends for drinks, so it was fun to experience that different side of things. Park City was filled with celebrities -- my best sightings were Ashton Kutcher and Daniel Radcliffe. It really is like bringing a little bit of Hollywood into the middle of Utah!

What’s weird is I hardly even knew the X Games were happening last month. It was the first time in 12 years I wasn’t there, and my sport wasn’t even in it since it was dropped this year. So there I was at Sundance, and I almost forgot the X Games were happening. I did see snowmobiling and caught a little bit of the men’s halfpipe snowboarding, but it just wasn’t the same.

Another big pick-me-up has been my dog, a Yorkshire terrier mix named Gidgit. She was living in Vermont, but I brought her back here after a late post-New Year's/Christmas celebration in Stratton. It’s been really snowy here, and in Old Town where I live, the roads are a little sketchy, so when I didn’t want to risk taking her for a walk on icy streets I brought her into the training center and put her on the treadmill. She was pretty confused, but I got her going with a little cheese for bait ,and once she figured it out she was really good. She got a solid workout and was tired for the rest of the day so my goals were met.

Being off the snow for a year now is definitely teaching me patience, but only time will tell how it changes me. I’m definitely more motivated than ever, and I really miss snowboarding. I didn’t think I missed it that much until I started riding again and started to progress and get back into the rhythm before it was taken away -- again. I can't wait to get back on the competition circuit and travel, hopefully in New Zealand next September. But I don't want to spend much time looking down the road to competing -- or to the Olympics -- because it’s too overwhelming. I just need to live in the present moment and focus on what I have control over. For today, it's rehab and making sure Gidgit gets a good walk!