Thursday, December 4, 2014

The injury paradox


My youngest son suffered an MCL sprain this fall while playing football. He caught the ball for an interception and was immediately tackled. He says his foot got caught in the grass and he felt a tug on his knee. The opposing team's trainer examined him on the sidelines and sent him back in to play. The pain got worse, and he sat out the rest of the game. I took him to be examined by the sports medicine doctor I work with, and after an MRI, we got the diagnosis of a grade 2 MCL tear/sprain. My son's football season was over and he was put in a brace.

"I wish I'd never gone for the interception," he said. Multiple times.

My son has played football since 3rd grade. He's not a natural athlete, and is small. But what he lacks in stature he makes up with his heart. I tried to discourage him from playing but he loves the sport. The last 2 years he went out for track, to improve his running form and speed. And in this, his 7th season playing football, his hard work paid off. He played on offense, defense, and special teams. He was the punt returner, the wide receiver, and a defensive lineman. He plays hard and gives 200% every time he plays. His coaches praise him frequently from the sidelines. He became an impact player. He's never had a serious injury. Until this season.


Now he's having second thoughts about those hard efforts he put forth during the games because he has been sidelined from the sport he loves to play. He's finishing physical therapy and he'll get to play next season. I keep telling him that the coaches are going to remember that interception. That if he took it easy, they most likely wouldn't remember him much at all. While he nods in agreement, he says he would rather have been able to keep playing.

I need to point out that the intention of this post isn't to brag about my son, although I am beyond proud of him. He worked so hard to become a player that he could feel good about. What I found so interesting after hurting his knee is that he regretted pushing himself and making an impact play because it resulted in an injury. And that is something, as a runner, to which I can relate.

Right now, I'm suffering from what is most likely a minor strain in my piriformis muscle, with maybe some IT band issues. I'm sure it's all related. I couldn't finish my run today because it was just too painful, even after stopping multiple times to stretch and walk. This thing has been nagging at me for a couple of weeks, but it wasn't until after I ran raced that Turkey Trot last week that I really felt the pain.



If only I hadn't raced it, right? Would I be hurting? If I had taken it easy that day, which I know I should have, I probably would still be running pain free right now. But if I hadn't pushed it, I wouldn't have gotten that 2d place AG. And that was fun. Was it worth it? I think so...

No guts, no glory, right? No pain, no gain? Go hard or go home? What doesn't kill you makes you stronger! Suck it up, buttercup! Just do it!



There are so many of these sayings. Sports is such a paradox. On the one hand, you can push yourself to achieve things you never thought you could do. Me, run another marathon? Run faster at age 52 than I've run in my life? Those accomplishments put huge smiles on my face! What a great feeling! But feeling like that fuels the desire to keep on pushing. Which isn't always good thing.

Because the harder you push yourself, the more likely you are to get injured. I've been here before. Lots of times. I've never been good at slowing down, at taking it easy. Usually, my body tells me when its time to do that way before my mind lets me. Today was that day. As I write this, I'm sitting on an ice pack. I've already foam rolled and rolled on my lacrosse ball. I'm going to work as hard at getting back to form as I do preparing for a race.

I'm not a natural athlete either. As a youngster, I was never good at sports. Gawky and clumsy, I tried tennis. I injured myself, not playing tennis, but off the courts by getting my foot stuck in the revolving door at the tennis club. Seriously. In high school, I tore ligaments in my wrist playing volleyball in gym. As an adult, I found a love and some skill for running. It wasn't easy at first. But I've worked hard and have been rewarded with endurance and some speed, which is more than I could have dreamed for.

Do we avoid taking risks, pushing ourselves, playing it safe to avoid injury? I don't think I have it in me to do that. I don't think my son does either. He's told me that he wants to sign up for rugby this spring. I know, football without a helmet, right? While I'm a little nervous about it, I totally understand where he's coming from.

As for me, in the words of the Terminator:




23 comments :

  1. I've injured myself a few times - similar to yours, the kind that slowly creeps up only you than BAM! You're out of the game.

    I've never been athletic. I work out it hard, but I will still never see times like yours; I don't know why. It frustrates me a lot. I'm competitive.

    But do I wish I never started or I didn't run the races that injured me? No way! I learn a little something each time. My most recent injury didn't derail for anywhere near as long, most likely because I learned a few things from the first one.

    Will I get injured again? Probably. But as long as I can, I'll keep running.

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    1. That's my plan too! We just keep moving forward. I'm spending my free time looking at races for 2015.

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  2. I was not an athlete either. In fact I was excused from PE most of my school years (subject for another post). I've suffered through several issues...ankle, Achilles, IT band, hip, etc. Like you, as long as I can still run, I will. I'm always surprised to hear others say they've never had an injury. I can't even compute! In my world, it's just part of it. I know you will work hard to get back to 100%!!

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    1. I always think that people who haven't been injured maybe aren't pushing themselves? And is that a bad thing? I guess it just depends on your goals. Me, I always want to top myself.

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  3. I have similar issues about arriving at a certain fitness level and then wanting to get faster/stronger. So I push myself to run faster/run when tired and eventually get injured. They say the enemy of "good" is "better" and I must agree, that I am always striving for "better" rather than settling for "good". However, I don't seem to be wired any other way except to want to run fast and push myself continually. If the bi-yearly one month injury-break is the price I pay, then I guess that is what it is. Anyway, hope you are back at it soon! Glad to hear your son will be able to play next year as well!

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    1. All I hope is that this thing goes away quickly! I keep promising myself I'll train smarter, and I think I did that this year. But the one thing I didn't do is give myself downtime after the marathon. I felt so good after that race, that I just kept on going. You'd think I'd learn by now...

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    2. Yes, I think next year I'll take more than 7 days off post-marathon. I probably prolonged my recovery time. It takes a long time for me to lose all of that built-up marathon fitness. So the best thing is to chill for awhile!

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    3. Yes, it stinks to lose all of that fitness, but it does not go away right away. There is a table somewhere that shows how much fitness is lost week by week of not running. It is only a few % points per week. I averaged only 10 mpw post-marathon and still PR'd the Hot Chocolate four weeks later. So I guess that there is some truth to it. :)

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    4. Good to know. I was out for 4 weeks in the spring with the foot fracture, and it didn't seems to affect me at all going into marathon training. I need to remind myself of that! Rest is training too, right?

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  4. Wendy, I've definitely done my share of things that, in hindsight, I might not have done the same way or at all; it's tough to force yourself to slow down, back off, pull back when you're in the excitement of the moment and...who knows? That's often how we test our strength and find out more about how to improve in the long run. I'm so thrilled about all of your accomplishments...we're going to keep pushing it; that's just who we are. I hope you start feeling better and make sure you take some time for your body to heal; gotta prepare for the craziness - ha! Great post!

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  5. Is it weird that I don't regret anything that got me injured? Yeah I know now that ramping up mileage immediately post first marathon in 2007 was not the best thing for my ITB but live and learn, right? Take care of that PIA. I love that your son has so much passion for football. That trait will take him far.

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  6. I'm pretty much always injured in some form or fashion. Degenerative joints, ITB issues all the time, jacked up toes even...but I can't quit something I love so very much. So I may slow down, run less mileage, etc...but I'll always run. I sure hope your issues ease up soon...xoxo

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    1. I hear ya. Hoping for a healing off season for all of us!

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  7. I can definitely relate. I was never good at sports. I fell avoiding ice while running and had surgery on my broken ankle. Of course, I started back running too soon and got a stress fracture in the other foot. I could go on and on but I love running and at 61 am faster than when I started., Injuries will happen but it's still worth the risk.

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  8. Oh gosh, hard issue. My injuries tend to me more often from overtraining than acute injuries. I'm getting pretty tired of them. But it's hard to give up the ice time and the chance to work hard toward my goals. Nonetheless I do need to downscale and I reluctantly have done so. There is a difference between exercising to be healthy and exercising to meet athletic goals, unfortunately they are not the same thing at all.

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    1. It's so true! Right now I have no training goals, so I really need to take it easy.

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  10. I'm really sorry to read about what happened to your kid. I hope he's fine now and is wishing all those distractions goodbye. Anyway, thanks for sharing that! I wish your whole family all the best!

    Candace Hudson @ MedCare Pediatric Group, LP

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