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Outside magazine, January 2000 Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Have a hunch you blew out your knee? Get thee to a doctor. Then, once you've resigned yourself to the sheer boredom of a few weeks on your back, crank up your PC and gawk in slack-jawed wonder at the rash of Web diaries devoted to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. Yes, it's come to this. Herein, four of the Net's best ACL horror stories.

Bob's Bum Knees
THE DAMAGE Bob Willmot ruptured both his ACLs while skiing in January 1996.
SQUIRM FACTOR "Holes are drilled in your bone.... The doctor makes an incision...and removes one-third of the patellar tendon. This tendon is then inserted into the newly drilled holes."

Aric's Knee Story
THE DAMAGE Aric Roush tore his right ACL playing basketball in December 1998.
SQUIRM FACTOR "The pain...can be best described as if someone were sticking a screwdriver straight through the side of my knee."

My Ugly Knee
THE DAMAGE Keith Stansell tore an ACL on the slopes from December 1995 to March 1996.
SQUIRM FACTOR "My knee started making grinding and popping noises when fully extended. This didn't sound good, and made everyone around me cringe whenever they heard it."

Ron McClellan's ACL Surgery
THE DAMAGE Ron tore both ACLs playing soccer between spring and fall 1998.
SQUIRM FACTOR "Oh, what a great feeling: to be standing AND more importantly, to be peeing. Trust me on this. It was wonderful." —KEVIN MALLORY

Recovery may be as close as a dip in the dark, briney deep

You've just slogged through a gut-wrenching workout. what now? Head straight to a dark, fully enclosed bathtub full of tepid, super-saline water. An hour later, you'll feel...different. Just ask 1998 Ironman champion Peter Reid. He would hit the float tank after grueling daily regimens, visualize himself performing like a world champion, and rejuvenate his sore muscles. "I recovered a lot faster," Reid claims.

There's little clinical proof connecting so-called restricted environmental stimulation therapy, or REST, with speedier athletic recuperation. Still, John Turner, a professor at the Medical College of Ohio and 20-year float tank researcher, found that regular tank sessions lowered levels of the stress-related hormone cortisol. Over time, floating trains the body not to react as strongly to stress, he says.

Reid and others feel that this spells a faster recovery between workouts and better performance overall: "The Eastern Bloc countries that used to crush us at international events report that the keys to recovery are nutrition and reduced stress," says Susan Saliba, an orthopedic surgeon and instructor at the University of Virginia. "[Floating] would definitely help from the reduced stress standpoint."

Then again, certain jocks will try anything to shave precious minutes off a race. "Triathletes are wont to experiment with new training techniques,"says International Triathlon Union managing director Michael Gilmore. "Some work and some don't." Find a public tank near you at www.njcc.com/~seefloat. —CAROL KAUDER

Illustration: John Ueland

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