When big wave surfer Ian Walsh needed surgery, he headed to DISC Sports & Spine Center in Marina del Rey to see orthopedic surgeon Dr. Andrew Bulczynski. It started in October 2012, after Walsh fell hard during a surf session at JAWS in Hawaii. The wave hit him in the back of his leg and pushed him down, causing pain and reduced mobility in his knee.
The injury occurred on the cusp of the winter season, right before the busiest months for Walsh: November, December and January. The best waves are during the winter season and Walsh didn’t want to miss out. He decided to hold off until spring with his knee, to see if it improved or would need to be corrected through surgery.
All throughout winter, Walsh dealt with knee pain, which began to affect his timing, how he read waves and how deep he could bend down in the hyperflexion position for a wave.
"From the beach it looks normal, but to me, in my head, I’m moving at 60%. My mind is going at 100% but my body is not keeping up where I want to be on the wave, so that really affected me a lot," Walsh said.
By the time April 2013 arrived, Walsh still suffered from knee pain and decided to fly out to Los Angeles, California to see Dr. Bulczynski, who told him he needed to have a knee arthroscopy.
Depending on what Dr. Bulczynski found during the arthroscopy, the recovery time ranged from one month to six weeks or up to six months.
During the procedure, Dr. Bulczynski made two small incisions on either side of the patellar tendon and trimmed some of the knee cartilage. He also discovered a firm calcified body behind the meniscus. According to Dr. Bulczynski, the calcification in the joint capsule played a significant part of his pain in the back of his knee. When Walsh bent down in the hyperflexion position, the joint capsule between the femur and the tibia was getting irritated from the calcified body.
Walsh’s next few weeks after the arthroscopy included appointments at the Soft Tissue Center to begin the rehabilitation process and get mobility back in his knee.
“I’m pretty excited just to surf without having that little pain in my back of my mind because it affects the way I read a wave,” Walsh said. “It affects the way you connect to turn. When you’re one millisecond off in the beginning, it changes everything."
With the goal of healing and strengthening his knee in mind, Walsh strived to get ready to hit the water again.
"That just opens up my whole summer. I can have a lot more fun, unleash it and let that thing rip. I'm excited to get out and do everything that I was born to do," Walsh said.
Watch Ian as he narrates his own surgery video (warning: some graphic images):