The DIY Hunter

Archery elk hunting with DonJoy Defiance knee braces

A must have with wearing my DonJoy Defiance knee braces is a pair of lightweight compression fit pants like the Browning NTS pants I'm wearing. When hiking all day, compression spandex undergarments help keep the friction of the knee brace straps from causing horrible scabby sores on the back of my legs.

When hunting this year, as the weather permits, I have started wearing shorts for easy access to adjust my knee braces.

I have a bum wheel so to speak, that being my right knee. I know it may be hard to believe my knee is bad from the style of hunting I enjoy doing — that is backpacking in, boning out the deer or elk and then hauling them off the mountain on my back.

This year I had my fourth surgery on my right knee. This time it had almost been 5 years since my last surgery when I was just about to sit down for lunch and my knee just locked up.. felt like a piston seized up or I wrench was stuck in the middle of my knee. Well for the couple weeks before I could get in to see a doctor my knee just had very poor range of motion... from near straight to about 45 degrees and that was it. My knee was locking up, swelling up and just plain non-functional.

Come to find out an X-ray clearly showed loose bodies floating around in the middle of my knee, and apparently one just happened to move into the wrong spot that day at lunch time. The x-ray also showed bone spurs and arthritis all over the place... it just didn't look pretty at all. :(

Loose bodies from my right knee

Loose bodies removed from my right knee in February of 2011.

Dr. Harrison, my doctor removed five loose bodies that where floating around in the joint. Not sure how they got there but some of them were fairly large... to me they appeared to be around marble size. He also cleaned up some rough cartilage and bone spurs etc. As we could see in the x-rays of the knee the ACL was completely incased with arthritis and during the surgery Dr. Harrison also found that the ACL is partially torn!?!... how that happened I have no idea. I haven't played any sports really since I was 22 years old when I wrecked on the motorcycle that tore my ACL to start the down hill tumble of my right knee. Now four surgeries later on this knee I am still milking the clock before I get a total knee replacement.

My right knee may be the craps but one thing that I will never stop doing is backpacking into rugged country and hauling deer and elk out on my back. My wife thinks I am totally crazy and I just agree with her. I tease that I will crawl in or have a wooden stump for a leg if I have too, but I am going to hunt where I like to hunt leg or not. The point is I'm not going to stop doing what I can do, while I can still do it. So while I still can I am going to be as crazy as I can with where I hunt.

Modified hyperflex keys for DonJoy Defiance knee brace

The 90 degree hyperflex prevention keys (top set) are the greatest amount of flexion that came with my DonJoy Difiance knee braces. 90 degrees is just not enough range of motion to hike and climb well, so I took a file and shaved down a set of 45 degree keys (bottom set) that I now get 105 degrees of flexion before the keys block motion protecting me from hyperflexing my knee too far and injuring it on the mountain when I am hiking and hunting.

With my right knee going south I have been using a DonJoy Defiance knee brace system. I use it to protect my fragile ACL and with the straps really tight I feel it helps balance some of the weight across the brace and not through my knee helping with my arthritic problems I have in my right knee. I also alter a set of hyperflex keys to stop the brace at about 105 degrees. I do this because I have been known to slip in the loose ground and steep terrain and fall on my leg bending it too far back. My knees just don't like being bent that far. The brace now prevents my knee from flexing too far and messing up my right knee...

While out camping this summer I had this very hyperflexion problem mess up my "good" left knee. It happened by slipping on the steep hillside while setting up milk jugs to shoot with a 243 WSSM. It didn't take long for the knee to swell up and motion in the knee to come to a near halt. Now my "good" knee was locking up with some cartilage catching in the center of this knee. I trip back to Dr. Harrison, some fluid drained, a cortisone shot and taking it very easy I have gotten my good knee back feeling near 100% but every so often it will catch a little... I will most likely need surgery to clean it up but I wasn't about to have that surgery two weeks before the archery elk opener. So to keep my "good" left knee from getting hyperflexed again I now have a second knee brace. I now am hiking and hunting with double DonJoy CI Defiance knee braces. Both braces are set to flex from Zero to around 105 degrees to protect my knees in case I slip and fall, especially when I have a 100 lbs on my back carrying a boned out deer or elk off the mountain.

Modified hyperflex key in DonJoy Defiance knee brace.

Here is a modified hyperflex prevention key installed in the DonJoy Difiance knee brace. This modified key protects my knee from getting hyperflexed too far yet gives me the ability to still be mobile by bending my knee to 105 degrees.

I turned 40 this year and the doc is hopeful I can make it into my 50's before I need the replacement knee. I already feel a great deal of burning in my knee during and several days after I do any hiking with a real heavy pack (80+ pounds or so). We will see how long I can go before the replacement. But arthritic burning pain or not I'm still going hunting in the rough mountains that I like to hunt. 

After the surgery this past spring the doc also highly advised that I stop jogging all together... I think it was more of  "absolutly no more jogging" now that I think about it. Biking was now going to be my best and only real exercising option to stay in shape. I have had an old 1989 Specialized Rockhopper that I have just rode the heck out of. It has been a good bike for me but it was time to put it out to pasture. It was time to get a new bike and a 29er to boot would be nice especially with me being tall. Getting a bike big enough to fit me was going to be a little difficult. Few manufactures make a 23" frame for a 29er. I will have to write in another entry about my quest to find an large enough bike to fit my 6 foot 7 inch frame.