Bipolar Knees

“Old age is the most unexpected of all the things that happen to a man.” – Leon Trotsky

Don’t bother to look it up, you won’t find Bipolar Knees in Wikipedia or any medical dictionary. You will find a definition for bipolar disorder, the condition referring to mood swings between mania and depression. And that is about the most accurate description I can give you for my knees.

I’ve been able to run long distances in a forward motion for as long as I can remember, but as I aged they haven’t worked that well laterally. Each of my three knee surgeries were caused by lateral movement, either pivoting or twisting in a sideward motion. I try to be mindful of this and avoid activities that contribute to my orthopedic surgeon’s vacation fund. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a great guy, but he does just fine without my help.

If only one incident occurred involving my bipolar knees, I likely would have passed it off as an isolated case, but they’ve been demonstrating wide mood swings for years. I first noticed it after I rehabbed my left knee following surgery in 2003 and entered a 10K to test my doctor’s work. The day after the race I was concerned because my knee was sore, and then I realized it was my good knee.

Bipolar Knees

My knees have gotten ridiculous over the last eight years. I had two more surgeries and several reminders about osteoarthritis, blah, blah, blah. I changed my exercise routine to include more low and non-impact aerobics and I typically alternate running with cycling. I don’t run long more than once every other week.

Two weeks ago, on a Monday morning, I did the inexcusable—I played basketball with a group of people around my kids’ age. I promised myself I’d play moderately, pass the ball a lot and stay out on the perimeter. Yeah, right! Once the sweat started dripping and bodies were bumping, I was thirty years old, if only in my own mind, and the next thing I knew I was rolling on the hardwood. Did I mention I’m a knucklehead?

That night my left knee hurt and I started freaking out. Tuesday morning the knee was sore when I got out of bed. I swore I wouldn’t run the remainder of the week. Wednesday it felt a little better so I hopped on my bike later in the afternoon to test it out (I didn’t say anything about not cycling.) I figured I’d ride for maybe ten or fifteen minutes. I returned an hour and a half later—feeling good. I ran nine miles on Friday, a lot of hills, with no pain. I woke up Saturday morning and my knee was aching again. Then I realized it wasn’t the knee I hurt playing basketball.

The following Saturday I did an eighteen-mile training run for a November marathon. Saturday night I felt my left knee getting sore and Sunday morning I got out of bed limping. This morning I ran with my team at five-thirty and my knees felt young again, like a forty-year-old.

I don’t know why I even pay attention to my knees anymore. Admittedly, I’m a slow learner. I should know by now just to ignore them.


About Jim Brennan

Jim is a Philadelphia-based writer, author, poet and editor for the Schuylkill Valley Journal.
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One Response to Bipolar Knees

  1. Sounds like your vice is a good game of basketball. Mine is softball. I can’t pass it up when I get the chance to play, and I play like I’m twenty years old. I ALWAYS regret it the next day. Hope you heal, and stay healed, quickly.


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