The Road to Recovery

Kris FreemanMarch 27, 20094
Kris Freeman in the 4x10km relay at the 2009 World Championships in Liberec.  (Photo: Swix Sport)
Kris Freeman in the 4x10km relay at the 2009 World Championships in Liberec. (Photo: Swix Sport)

I have been recovering from surgery for three weeks.  I was suffering from compartment syndrome in both shins.  Compartment syndrome occurs when the muscle outgrows the fascia, or protective covering, of the muscle.  As blood moves into the muscle during exertion the tight fascia restricts blood flow and causes a lot of pain.  To combat this condition I removed most of the fascia from five muscles in both shins.  I also had extensive scar tissue removed from crucial nerves located just above my feet.  The surgery took longer than planned because I had far more scar tissue in my shins than expected.  The longer surgery means a longer recovery.

I decided to stay in Vail Colorado for a month after surgery so that I could rehabilitate my legs at the Steadman Hawkins clinic.  This is the same facility that many pro-ahtletes have chosen to rehab injuries including A-Rod who is currently working to heal his hip.  I have been sure to wear my Red Sox tee-shirt nearly every day.

I started my rehab the day after surgery with swelling massage, and range of movement exercises.  As I have  progressed the massage has gotten deaperer and my exercises more challenging.  Thera-band work was introduced at two weeks and low weight leg presses were added a few days later.  Most recently I started one-legged balance drills in skating and classic positions.  My physical therapist is a cross-country skier, so we have been able to work together to create very specific balance drills.

Tomorrow will be my third post-op appointment with my surgeon.  Hopefully he will be happy enough with my progress to recommend that I start pool-workouts.  You know I am getting ansy and bored when I am looking forward to aqua-jogging.

Though this experience is one that I could have done without I am very happy with the progress that I have made.  The restrictive fascia was affecting my flexibility.  Since its removal my range of motion has increased allowing for more shin angle.  I am very much looking forward to adapting this new mobility to my technique.  I can’t wait to ski… but I have to.

Kris Freeman

Kris Freeman is a longtime member of the US Ski Team and the top-ranked distance skier in the United States.

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  • Jamey Holstein

    March 27, 2009 at 11:06 pm

    Compartment syndrome was rarley seen prior to skating techique. I believe it is caused by the shin and calf muscle overdevelopment because of play in a skating boot in an attempt to contol the “floating” of a ski on snow without tracks and the tourque of a swinging 5′ stick attached to your boot.

    This condition can easily be solved by modifying your boots with straps to lock your heel into to sole of your skating boots. You need very little ankle braces/support contrary to the curerent trend (see speed skates). Hopefully, the boot companies will read this post too.

    I also believe skate skis should be much shorter, but wider to provide the needed surface area to reduce friction, but eliminate much of the aweful tourque (just watch a skate race in slow motion to see to crazy swing/wasted motin the tips and tails are doing on a 180 cm ski).

    I have modified my skating boots with alpine ski boot “power straps” and this works great.

  • lsiebert

    March 28, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Didn’t they try the shorter/wider thing with the Fischer Revolutions a few years back? And didn’t that not work out too well?

    The boot thing sounds like it could work though, and I think some companies ARE moving in that direction (didn’t Fischer make a cuffless skate boot?)

  • ProSeattle

    March 29, 2009 at 12:16 am

    Seattle – Mar 28, 09 at 10:10pm

    Kris it is incredable story. It is hard to believe that with all that medical trouble you had such a great 15k race at the World Championship in Liberec. Just a couple seconds from the bronze. I wish you a quick recovery and the best season 2009/2010. Pro H. attache for US team at WC Liberec

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