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In the 2013 season, the Professional Referee Organization's Fotis Bazakos suffered a serious knee injury.
During his time away from the soccer field, he kept a diary of his feelings and progress...
Monday, October 21, started off just like any other day in the life of a referee in the Professional Referee Organization.
I utilized the Bioforce application on my iPhone to measure my resting heart rate, which was 43, and my heart rate variability, which was 85.3. Those results gave me a ‘green’ readiness rating, meaning my body was ready for a full training session.
I logged onto our training website to download the day’s dynamic warm-up exercises; cardio regimen, strength training, and core training.
It was a light day for cardio: two sets of five 200s - rest 45 seconds between reps with three minutes between sets. Unfortunately, during one of those sprints, I felt what could only be described as an explosion in my left knee.
After limping home, icing, and calling a doctor - my brother Elias - over, we knew in short order that this wasn’t a simple injury.
The Wednesday of that week was a travel day to Dallas for a PRO training session, and that evening PRO Sports Scientist Matt Hawkey and fellow PRO referee Geoff Gamble, who is a doctor specializing in sports injury, examined my knee.
Again, it was obvious from the exam that there was a serious problem and an MRI was needed as soon as the swelling went down to see if my season could be salvaged.
The swelling reduced over the next week and in the early morning of the 31st I had the MRI scan on my left knee. The radiologist confirmed that I had a tear in my meniscus and that the loose piece was stuck in my joint capsule.
After receiving that news, I was certain that my season was over and I quickly shifted my focus to getting ready for 2014.
Over the following days I visited three specialists that could perform the surgery I required, coordinate my rehab, and get me ready in time for 2014. I knew the FIFA fitness test would be given at the PRO pre-season camp at the National Training Center & Mission Inn Resort, Florida, between January 31 and February 2, 2014.
A couple of weeks passed and I was ready for surgery.
I arrived in the morning, had my surgery, and walked out a couple of hours later. Everything went great and the first step in my rehabilitation plan was for me to lay down with my left leg elevated for three days, during which it is was compressed and iced by a machine the entire time.
A few days after surgery my leg was only showing 2cm of swelling. This meant I was ready to start my daily physical therapy sessions.
The rehab plan involved me going into a physical therapy facility every other day for 30 days and doing exercises on my own.
The facility had everything necessary to get me back to fitness according to our plan.
After 28 days, I passed the Functional Performance Test, saw the surgeon for post-op, and returned to training just before the New Year.
I was slightly ahead of schedule, with just over a month to get my fitness back for the test in late January.
January 2014 proved to be one of the most difficult months of training in my life.
PRO Sports Scientist Matt Hawkey re-assured me that my fitness would return quickly, so we stuck to our plan and I struggled through the workouts that seemed so difficult.
I only had a chance to practice the FIFA fitness test once, on January 25, and I passed it so I had the confidence to head down to Florida and take it with my peers at the training camp.
It was a long road to recovery, but it will be worth it when I am ready for preseason games in February, and regular season games that start in March. I couldn’t be happier.