How Dan Durda’s Knee Injury Did Not Stop Him From Exploring

Home/How Dan Durda’s Knee Injury Did Not Stop Him From Exploring

As a planetary scientist, Dan Durda has always had a fascination with the natural wonders of planet Earth. Dan has traveled all around the world exploring and learning about the planet we call home. Through these adventures, Dan has never been physically restricted until an unexpected fall on April 16, 2016.

Dan’s fieldwork at Meteor Crater near Flagstaff, Arizona required him to stand high up on a rock to get the right camera angle for mapping and sizing the location. Unfortunately, a strong gust of wind blew him off of the rock, and out of instinct, Dan jumped off of the long drop. As he landed, he heard and felt a pop in his right knee and immediately experienced pain. After he was stabilized, he was able to get back to his car with the help of his colleagues, but he thought he had broken his leg.

Dan Durda Hiking After Torn ACL

Hiking his favorite trail in the Front Range (Isabelle Glacier) on the one year anniversary of his surgery – the perfect way to celebrate having his knee and life back!

Dan drove straight to the Flagstaff emergency room where his x-rays showed that his leg was not broken; however,the loose feeling in his knee led him to believe there was more damage than the x-rays showed. While dreading his 11-hour drive home to Boulder, Dan was even more concerned that he would have to cancel his upcoming science television production in Iceland due to the injury. The producer of the show suggested that Dan go to The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado. “He told me it was the best place in the world,” said Dan.

When Dan got back to Boulder, he began researching online and found Dr. LaPrade. “I sent him a contact form submission regarding my injury,” Dan said. “I knew famous athletes get treated at The Steadman Clinic, so I was unsure if they would see someone like me.”

Dan went to the Boulder Medical Center where he received an MRI that showed he had a complete tear of his ACL. “I was faced with a very serious decision considering that I’ll soon be flying to space. I also had a trip to Antarctica planned. I had to have my life back,” said Dan. He went to two local physicians, but still had in mind a preference to be treated by Dr. LaPrade if at all possible.

On June 1, 2016 Dan drove to Vail, Colorado to have his initial consultation with Dr. LaPrade. “Dr. LaPrade told me, ‘We can do this. We can get your knee back to 100%.’ He did not just tell me that I would kind ofhave my knee back like the other physicians that I saw. His reassuring words were all I needed.”

Due to Dan’s schedule, he had to wait several weeks for the surgery. Even though he wore a knee brace and walked as gingerly as he could, he felt his knee moving side to side when walking down inclines. In hindsight, Dan said he would not have waited so long between injury and surgery to help minimize any additional damage to the knee joint.

Dan Durda

Dan birding at 10,000 feet in the Chilean Andes in March 2017 – 11 months after the injury and just 8 months post surgery.

On July 11, 2016, Dan arrived in Vail for surgery. In addition to his ACL tear, Dan had a strained MCL and PCL, along with a medial meniscus tear. During surgery, Dr. LaPrade performed an ACL reconstruction and a lateral meniscus repair.

Dan elected to stay in Vail for the first two weeks post-surgery to begin his physical therapy at Howard Head Sports Medicine. “I was by myself during my stay in Vail, and it was truly wonderful how everyone around me made me feel so at ease. I had zero knowledge base on what to expect following surgery, but I knew that I was in good hands.”

Dan attended physical therapy at Howard Head twice a day for two weeks while in Vail and then continued his physical therapy at Boulder Medical Center for the next 28 weeks.

“After tearing your ACL, you realize that you are not the only one who has gone through this experience. You join the team and become an ambassador of sorts to be able to help and encourage others through their recovery,” said Dan.

During physical therapy, Dan focused on the minor victories of getting range of motion and strength back. The moment he felt like he had his knee back occurred three months after surgery when he performed a full squat. “I knew everything was going to be OK after that victory,” said Dan.

In October, he started doing tentative hikes around Boulder and by January of 2017, Dan was back to hiking more challenging trails. “I hiked on some loose rock terrain that made me question the state of my knee, but my knee felt great!” said Dan.

“I had a lot of positive personal growth through this experience,” said Dan. “What I appreciated the most about Dr. LaPrade’s style of care was his confidence. I knew I was going to get my life back.” When asked what he would tell other patients who have gone through a similar experience, Dan said, “Absolutely go see Dr. LaPrade. Be ready to do your part of the work following surgery. Do everything that your surgeon and physical therapist tells you to do, and push through the hard times. You can persevere!”

Dan Durda
Dan Durda

Dan is training to get back to flying jets and for his upcoming spaceflights

In the short term, Dan is traveling the world pursuing his hobby of birding. In the next few years, Dan will be participating in a project with the National Science Foundation in Antarctica to collect and study meteorites. In the long term, Dan will be traveling to space. “None of this would have been possible without the help of Dr. LaPrade and his team. I have my life back!”

While clinical studies support the effectiveness of these procedures, individual results may vary. There are no guarantees of outcome. All surgeries involve the risk of major complications. Before you decide on surgery, discuss treatment options with your doctor. Understanding the risks of each treatment can help you make the best decision for your individual situation.  Always ask your doctor about all treatment options, as well as their risks and benefits. Only your doctor can determine the appropriate treatment for your situation. The clinical information and opinions, including any inaccuracies expressed in this material by patients or doctor are not necessarily those of Robert LaPrade, MD and should not be considered as substitute for medical advice provided by your doctor.

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