Youth in Bars

When we were young, boy was it fun to go to the bars to get drunk.  Then we got a little older and we decided to eat before we went out.  Then, we got even older and found that we could eat and drink right at the bar without the hassle of the restaurant reservation and the rowdy crowds at the bar. And who do we trust to service us so completely?  Our bartenders!

I’ve had my share of crushes on bartenders. What girl hasn’t? But now, I’m interested in their story. Meet Alban, one of the bartenders at Wolfgang’s Steakhouse on Park Avenue. He is a smiling face when you approach the bar, and not to mention very good looking, which makes for great business for the actual business! And he moves behind the bar to make your drink, get the plates to service you for dinner and you would never know unless you asked that he was hurting behind the bar.

I write about the pitfalls of the restaurant and bar industry service. It’s a tough business! It’s tight quarters back there and it’s weird rubber mats with holes because of the amount of splash from the liquor and water from the sinks. It can be a dangerous place!

Alban is just 23 years old and a 6 year veteran of Wolfgang Steakhouse. He works hard on the job but he loves to play basketball in the park, which is a dangerous sport for injuries. He was coming to a stop when he stopped, but his knee kept going and BHAM! Blowout!!! Knee injuries that are titled the ‘Terrible Trio’ or the ‘TRIAD’ injury are the hardcore, “Wow, you really hurt your knee!” Those involve the medial meniscus, the medial collateral ligament (MCL) and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).  Three structures in your one knee joint injured at the same time.  That is a lot! And Alban has one more structure involved, his lateral meniscus.

The menisci are cartilage cushions in the knee joint that offer shock absorption and a reduction of friction in the knee when you bend and straighten the leg. The collateral ligaments sit on the outside of the joint and prevent excessive motion for side to side stability in the joint. The cruciate ligaments exist deep inside the joint and prevent excessive motion for front to back stability in the joint.  Damage to these passive structures (meaning you do not have voluntary control over them) means that your joint, or two bone ends are going to move more than they should.  That means your muscles and tendons have to work harder to control them and you could feel pain, instability and have dysfunction in movement.

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Surgery is typically inevitable for damage to all 3 and now 4 structures for Alban.  Even for daily living, the joint is too unstable and causes pain and poor movement patterns. But once out of surgery, Physical Therapists help you regain motion, strength, stability and agility for higher end activities.

Alban’s job involves standing for prolonged hours in a small space and a lot of pivoting and side to side movement. His complaint of discomfort is prolonged standing, sitting and kneeling directly on the knee. That makes his knee stiff.  But moving, that is much better. Alban had the surgery six months ago.  His surgery involved repairing the menisci (which means a longer, strenuous and more involved rehab protocol because it is a repair versus just trimming out what is torn or frayed) and a patellar tendon allograph for the ACL repair. This means his ACL ligament is from part of his patellar tendon which means he has 2 healing sites for that one element of his surgery. The MCL is usually left alone to scar down.

Alban complains of these symptoms. He is still in physical therapy twice a week. His physician’s protocol was aggressive and had him start jogging two and a half months after the surgery. That is very aggressive PT! But for a young guy like Alban who needs to be physical on the job and wants to continue to do higher end sports that involve quick motions and impact with other players, the leg needs to be worked. Strength, endurance, agility and stability are crucial components in life and play.

Make sure your physical therapist does a combination of manual therapies to restore joint and soft tissue mobility, and then gives you appropriate exercises to get you back in the game. Your therapist will educate you as you progress through rehab and give you a good home exercise program. When you’re done, swing by the bar to replenish your energy with some good food and a drink.

Dr. Karena Wu
Dr. Karena Wu is owner and Clinical Director of ActiveCare Physical Therapy. She has been practicing physical therapy for 16 years in New York City after she graduated from the Program In Physical Therapy at Columbia University. She received her clinical doctorate in physical therapy from Temple University. She has advanced training in manual therapies, specifically in the Maitland Australian Approach and Myofascial Release. Karena is a Certified Orthopedic Manual Therapist, Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Kinesiology Tape Practitioner and Pilates Instructor. She is also LSVT BIG, FMS and SFMA Level 1 Certified. Karena is a dedicated practitioner who takes a holistic approach to her practice. She actively networks with a team of physicians, chiropractors, acupuncturists and massage therapists. Her patient population consists of professional athletes, dancers, celebrity chefs, TV media stars, high end business professionals, and NYPD/FDNY. Karena is used as a healthcare expert on CBS, NBC, NY1, PIX11, Verizon Fios, Fox News and Dr. Oz. She is the Director of Education for SpiderTech Kinesiology Tape and is on the Medical Board of the Association of Volleyball Professionals. Visit her website at