Sandra's story

Patient: Less than 12 months after she ruptured her ACL, Rachel celebrated her 27th birthday by trekking the Overland Track - an 85km trek through Tasmania’s alpine region. Rachel is back enjoying outdoor sports with a pain-free knee.

Rachel Holland recovered through the Cross bracing protocol
Rachel’s story

Less than 12 months after she ruptured her ACL, Rachel celebrated her 27th birthday by trekking the Overland Track – an 85km trek through Tasmania’s alpine region. Rachel is back enjoying outdoor sports with a pain-free knee.

Back story 

Growing up playing elite softball and netball, my biggest fear had always been rupturing my ACL. So when I was bumped in the air, knocked off balance and landed awkwardly during a social netball game and heard my knee crunch under me, I was anxious for the worst. When the MRI revealed an ACL rupture and a grade 3 MCL tear, my heart sank as I mentally recalibrated the next year of my life –the surf and ski holidays I would have to cancel and how my weekends would look without doing the things I loved the most, not to mention the costs and time of surgery. Fortunately, my physio had heard about the novel “Cross Bracing Protocol and referred me to Dr Tom Cross for an initial assessment within 2 days of the injury.

Making the non-surgical decision 

Dr Cross explained that I had an 85% chance of success. As a lawyer, these odds seemed low to me but apparently they are good odds in the medical world! I was willing to try the bracing protocol to avoid surgery as most people I know who have had a surgical ACL reconstruction have ongoing hamstring issues (from the graft site), and inflammation around the knee. Being an avid trail runner, I wanted to avoid these issues and I liked the idea of healing the knee naturally so I was willing to give the Cross Bracing Protocol a try. I was also of the view that if the heal was unsuccessful, I would always have surgery as a plan B.

My experience during the protocol

I committed myself to the protocol completely and was diligent with my rehab exercises and diet. I think a benefit of the protocol is that it empowers the patient in their own healing journey. I felt that I had a level of control  over my injury because I was able to commit myself to my rehab from day 1 without having to wait for surgery, experience the post-surgical pain and put my healing in other people’s hands. Undoubtedly, the hardest aspect of the protocol was not being able to walk which made many things difficult (making food, showering, carrying things). I slowly learnt to rely on other people and ask for help with daily tasks. My advice in this respect is to let go of your ego and just ask for help. The 2 minutes it takes someone to make your tea is worth you temporarily sacrificing your independence (12 weeks is a long time to hop your tea to the couch). Some symptoms of my endometriosis were also exacerbated during the protocol because of the anticoagulant medication. While this was manageable for me, people with endometriosis should consider this when deciding whether to choose the non-surgical option. During those 12 weeks, it was difficult to let myself trust the process without thinking of the worst case scenario (that I wouldn’t achieve a heal). I tried to focus on each day, and to have something small to look forward to each day or each week to avoid getting overwhelmed at the thought of the 12 week MRI. Some days this was a coffee delivery from Mum, other days it was a wheel along the beachfront with my boyfriend in the sunshine. Try to appreciate the slowness of things during this time (I know, easier said than done).

My recommendations

These are the things I learned on my journey:
  • To make life easier during your time off feet, I would recommend a shower stool, pre-prepared meals (eg My Muscle Chef) and a cup holder for your crutches (you can buy one off Amazon).
  • If you can afford it, I would also recommend investing in a electrical muscle stimulation machine like a Compex to mitigate muscle atrophy. I diligently used my Compex machine and I think it greatly contributed to my rehab success.
  • In addition to my rehab specific exercises, I also found swimming with a floaty in between my legs to be a great way to keep active and experience some freedom of movement (which was essential to my mental health and sense of self).
  • If you are reading this and have just ruptured your ACL, you may be feeling overwhelmed about the journey of recovery ahead. Just know that while this injury is incredibly impactful in the short term, you will get back to a life full of activities and movement.
Rachel Holland MRI image


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