I mentioned a while ago about my knee injury. One year on, numerous visits to the physiotherapists, some sports massages and some visits to the chiropractor, and I still wasn't seeing much progress. So when I heard professionals using phrases like "your cartilage looks like crazy paving", "you've got the knee of a hard-playing 50 year old footballer", "there are ligament problems", alarm bells started to ring.
The problem is, these most recent diagnoses didn't tally with the original radiographers report done in January 2012, when I had the MRI scan. I'd also been getting conflicting information about how I should approach the injury, what was best for me and what I should and shouldn't be doing. All very confusing and having a massive impact on my life.
There was only one thing for it, a fifth opinion.
After much research and recommendations from friends and acquaintances, including a certain Mr Magnus Backstedt and Julian Winn (thanks guys) I decided to go and see Mr Jonathan Webb. Apparently he's the man when it comes to knees and cyclists, this was confirmed a few days after I booked the appointment when Nicole Cooke mentioned him in her retirement statement. Looking good so far.
My only reservation was that he is based in the Fortius Clinic in London, the same clinic the first consultant I saw is based. And I wasn't very impressed with him - the half hour appointment I'd booked in January 2012 took all of 5 minutes, cost £250 and all I got was a one line diagnosis. I tried for months to get some more information and clarification on cartilage fissures from him, but he was always off skiing or deer stalking in the highlands. Alright for some!
I explained all of this to Mr Webb's secretary on the phone and at the outset of the appointment he too addressed it and told me not to worry about the politics, the most important thing is that we figure out what's wrong. (A good start!)
Well, what a difference an hour makes. He examined both knees, did the usual tests and then we chatted. I asked questions, he answered clearly. I queried bits I didn't understand and pointed things out to me on diagrams. We had a look at the MRI scan, I told him about the 'crazy paving' comment and he said there's no evidence of that.
Basically, he said that aside from the fissure my knee is structurally fine, cartilage, ligaments and all. Plus the fissure didn't explain the pain and problems I was having anyway. At this point I think I started crying and apologised, he sat back in his chair and told me not to worry, "it's a very emotional subject for sports people" he said. (Himself being a former England rugby player.)
Apparently, my main problem now is a plica. He went into detail, but coincidentally it's exactly the same thing Nicole Cooke had. Obviously he did a quick op for her, snipped it out and six weeks later she won the Giro d'Italia. I don't have the budget of a pro cycling team. But I'm confident this is what I have and more importantly, believe everything he said.
Then came the best thing I have heard in a year: "It's fine for you to ride your bike as much as you want and whenever you want". I couldn't believe it. Really? "I can't stress enough that you are okay to ride your bike and you won't be doing any damage at all. It will hurt due to the inflammation the plica causes, but other than that, it will be fine."
So there we have it; slap on the ibuprofen gel before a ride and see how I go. If I can manage the pain then great, otherwise I'd better start saving for that operation. As I stood up to leave I could have hugged him! I didn't, by the way. I did in my head, but not in his office. Outside I took a deep breath and promptly burst into tears, again. I was so emotional I had to go and hide in a little pub around the corner and compose myself over a pint. What a day! Why didn't somebody tell me that a year ago?! I can't remember the last time I was this happy!
If you've got a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find him, maybe you can hire the J-Webb.