Sunday, April 22, 2012

Injury Loves Company

Last Monday, I walked into the waiting room at Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and settled into a chair with a magazine ahead of my physical therapy appointment. It was about lunchtime, and the only other person in there was a young guy.

"You injured?" he asked.

I closed the magazine. I knew what was going to ensue, and I've started to like these conversations, which make me feel less alone.

"Yep," I said, and told him about my back. "What about you?"

"Yeah," he said. "My shoulder. I have six pins and a plate in there now."

That sounded much worse than my problem. And he certainly had a better story.

"How'd you do it?" I asked.

"It was a ski accident," he said. "First run of the day. I was headed down at, like, 65 miles an hour and I turned and bam! ran into an elk."

Whoa. Further conversation revealed that he'd been hoping to make the leap to professional and had been in PT for 10 weeks, about four weeks longer than I have. He's still hoping to go pro. But he's clearly got a lot of work to do first. He's 24 years old. What a bummer!

What did I learn from this conversation? Well, it reaffirmed that there's always someone with a harder road than yours. (It also confirmed that I'm really not interested in learning how to downhill ski. I've heard too many catastrophic injury stories associated with skiing. Yeah, I know, that's sacrilege in Colorado. But I do believe we need to choose our challenges where we can in life, and downhill skiing? Not going to be my choice.)

A happier version of "tell me about your injury and I'll tell you about mine" occurred when I was waiting in line for tacos after Dan's race last Tuesday. A willowy female master's runner (who it turns out won her age group) was in front of me, and a wiry male one (who placed in the top three in his) was behind me. We got to talking about injuries. The woman had been sidelined from running several times over the course of a long career as a recreational runner and triathlete. And the man told me he actually shattered his patella in half in a race one year.

They were philosophic about it. If you run long enough, they said, you will deal with an injury. Yet, there they were, having great races in their 50s and 60s. At one time, the woman said, she was out for six months. It seems like a blip now, she said.

Yesterday, after my 75-minute recumbent bike session at the gym, I talked to a bodybuilder/cyclist acquaintance afterwards (I'm at the gym so much now that I'm starting to get to know people there). He told me he himself had dealt with a bad lower back years ago, and that faithful core work had kept it at bay. He said he noticed that if he went even three days without doing his core exercises, the pain started creeping back in.

He's a nice guy, and he gets it about having goals. "I bet you're not dealing very well with this, are you," he said.

"No," I replied, "it's been really hard. The exercises are so small, and boring."

"Yeah, not the kind of person who likes baby steps, are you? But you have to see it as your new challenge," he said. "It's what you have to tackle right now."

And of course he's right.

Any other good injury stories out there?


  1. no injury story but I am with you on the ski thing.  I am from a place where we have 6-8 mos of winter and I went downhill skiing once.  I hurt myself so bad. never again!!!

  2. The guy ran into an elk?  That's just crazy.  I used to ski a lot and got our kids involved when they were teeny, but I don't partake anymore.  I'm so cold all the time and everyone got tired of listening to me whine they just now leave me at home!  :)

    I used to remind myself - constantly - when I was down and out with my foot that there were people enduring a lot worse things than I was... and it really did help put things into perspective some.  No one deals with injury well, you are definitely not alone! 

  3. My injury story is not even remotely interesting - no elk or other wildlife involved!

    Rehabbing IS boring.  I saw my PT on Friday and he said it was wise of me not to start running.  Apparently my left ilium is anteriorly rotated, which is leading to lots of bad stuff going on with my left hip and low back. I've started using a tennis ball on my low back (quadratus lumborum) and outer hip (tensor fasciae latae) and he'll start manual therapy on me next week.  After that, we move on to strengthening exercises, which I'm sure will be small and boring.  It'll be worth it in the long run (pun intended).

    P.S. I also don't like Winona Ryder and think she seems whiney in everything.

  4. Great post! Really resonated with me. In the grand scheme of things, my current back injury is miniscule. And again, another reminder from the story in your post to DO MY CORE WORK. As I creep closer to 40 and have had my abs blown out by 3 pregnancies, I don't have the luxury of skipping them anymore. Too bad I have to learn the hard way!

    My coach is also injured too. Achilles. He had to pull out of Boston and is fighting his way back. We will all get there again! Keep hanging on!

  5. I royally effed up my knee mogul jumping and was on crutches for a oolong time (that was the last time I skiied). miraculously, knock wood, I've never had a problem with it since. I do believe injury and the learning and perspective that comes with it are just part of life.

  6. I've got nothing. So far no injuries that have kept me out for long. That elk story is crazy. Like you I've no interest in skiing. Born and raised here and been once. 

  7. injures suck no matter how big or small, but they are unavoidable in our sport...keep it up long enough and u'll get some crazy stories! the elk is a new one, that's pretty just random/odd. anyways, the only way to stick out those tedious rehabs is to take it a day at a time and not try to dwell on how much longer it'll be. kno that u're doing all u can to get better and eventually u WILL get back at tie. :)

  8. I dislocated my thumb on my first mountain biking attempt and was off my beloved bikes for almost 7 weeks. :( But...silver lining...I had just started running, and while I still watched with longing as the bikes sailed past my staggering jog, running kept me sane and active while I couldn't ride, and I found a real love for running as well.

    There's definitely always someone who has it worse, but our challenges are the ones we have to live with.  You're so right, though, about the perspective gained from talking to others.  It's good to know you aren't alone, and it's soooo good to hear from people who're out the other side of the tunnel.

  9. I know I missed the point (what else is new), but how did he say "I ran in to an elk" without giggling like a small child.  I would never be able to say that with a straight face.

    And I've been foam rolling like crazy because my piriformis is angry at the world again.  Stupid piriformis.

  10. I hope to have a happy ending story in a few months.  :-)  It is true that there is always some one who has it much worse than where we are and we certainly can count our blessings and be thankful from that perspective.  But that shouldn't negate the fact or shame us that the things that challenge us along the way don't count or don't amount to much.  We all need our whimper moments and then put our heads down and keep our eyes on the prize set before us - health (and then blissful, carefree running!)  :-)

  11. What a "Boulder encounter" - where else in this country would you have a conversation like that while waiting for PT. 

    When I read "65 mph" - I thought...'yeah..right' but then I got to the part where he was going pro - ok - yeah, that must be true.

    Sounds like you have gotten some good perspectives recently, hopefully 10 years from now this will just be a tiny blip!

    You are getting there!  Can't wait to hear about progress after your next PT appt.  :)

  12. Yep, you may have noticed that I did absolutely no skiing this year. Too icy and I had way too much to work towards. Fortunately, the kids didn't even notice!! Better make it up for it in hiking this summer, though ..

  13. I love this post.  Skiing into an Elk has to be one of the best injury stories I've ever heard.

    When I first started running, I was sidelined from a skiing accident where I cracked 3 ribs, it was a fluke fall, but I get it about not seeing the appeal.  ;)

  14. I loved hearing other injury stories when I was out for 10 weeks last fall.  I love that perspective- that as a long term runner, you're likely gonna have injuries along the way, but in time they will be just a small blip in the big picture.  I totally want to be running when I'm in my 60's!!

  15. Running into an elk is pretty badass. I've gotten hurt in hilarious ways before: I twice dislocated my shoulder from horses, I've stabbed myself with kung fu weapons (enough to need stitches), and one time I was trying to leap over the vacuum cleaner and fell and broke my arm. 

  16. It does help to know people can relate to what you're dealing with because they've been there too. Skiing is hazardous for me. It's kind of fun, but mostly scary. Poor guy about running into an elk! Keep up the baby steps, you have already come so far . :)

  17. Um, if I'm going to get in a injury-causing crash while snowboarding I can only hope it involves an elk and not just a silly tree! Good grief - at least he got a good story out of that, although that seriously sucks!

    No good injury stories here but I do give a ton of credit to anyone who stays active during an major injury!

  18. They speak the truth--it is SO hard to believe now, but it will be a blip on your screen sooner rather than later. I can't believe I was sidelined just a mere 6 months ago and now I feel very strong. You'll get there, too!

    Skiing and an elk? Crazy!