On August 17, two critical articles appeared in the OCR news. Make sure to read Mark Barosso’s article in MRG and Amelia Boone’s article in her blog. Now I want you to look beyond the celebrity and turn your attention to little old me and you. While Barosso wants to hear more from the celebs, and Amelia is a celeb, I want you to listen to yourself for a moment. While these two are talking about OCR injury, I want you to think for a moment about your trauma history. But first, a little bit about my own to provide some perspective.
Whether you are 55 like me or just 20-something with an accumulation of sports injuries, I want you to think about the long-term effects OCR may have on your body. The injury I’m dealing with happened a long time ago in an entirely different form. More on that in a moment. First I want to reiterate a point. I’m fifty-five. I’m still in the game. Most OCR athletes are much younger than I. They are in their prime. Will they still be in the game at my age? Will Hunter, Amelia, Hobie, and Lindsay still be OCR athletes twenty, thirty years from now? I certainly hope so.
But to answer Mr. Barosso’s question, and to reinforce Amelia’s injury commandments, I want to provide you with some suggestions to help you young ‘uns get there alive, thriving, and still in the game. It all started when I was a teenager.
It? What “it”?
The injuries. Not just any injuries. Start putting this phrase in your head and never forget it – cumulative trauma. Those are the injuries, big and small, that accumulate over time, always putting more and more stress and strain on various body parts until one day something breaks.
Most major injuries don’t happen from a one-time incident. My season killer was a torn ACL. I’ll give the blow by blow, working backward from the point of the tear all the years back to where the cumulative trauma started.
I was doing some ninja training at a local gym. I jumped up onto a high box, swung my right leg over and planted that foot on the ground. Coming down, my left leg hung up on the top of the box. My body was already in motion to dismount. The perfect storm set for a high load stress against a fixed point of my body. The right knee was the only thing that could pivot. Funny thing about knees is they are not designed to do that. The quadriceps are there to provide the strength and flexibility to the knee to protect it from the average daily impacts.
A trip to the MRI revealed that I had indeed torn my ACL. Surgery was required to fix it. I was out for at least a year starting September 6, 2016. At the diagnosis, my orthopedic surgeon told me that I had also torn my meniscus. Usually, that’s the way it happens. An athlete tears the meniscus first. This sets up a stress riser, cumulative trauma, weakness, that paves the way for a torn ACL. But this was just the breaking point from a long list of collective traumas reaching back 45 years.
I was training the dreaded bucket carry. The five-gallon bucket was loaded with sand somewhere between 50 and 70 pounds. After Palmerton 2015 when they put the sandbag carry up into the rocks and boulders single track, I decided some simulated heavy carry like that would be good. I stepped up slowly onto a tire with my left foot. I pushed off with my right to get up. The right knee gave out. It didn’t hurt, didn’t swell, and felt pretty good in fact. But I didn’t want to chance anything by trying that move again. That kind of knee thing had never happened to me before. So I took what I thought was the road of caution by backing off and swearing never to do that again. It could wait until Palmerton 2016.
During doctor visits and physical therapy, I learned a lot about my knee. The knee is a closed joint. That means that the stuff inside the knee like the ligaments and cartilage don’t get a lot of blood and fluid around them. So when they get hurt, the body can’t send the healing agents to make them better. They don’t heal like bones and muscles over time. They have to repair through surgery. Pain, or lack thereof, is not a reliable indicator of the underlying severity of the injury to the knee.
I also learned that the quadriceps are the major protectors of the knee. We need good strong quadriceps. Without sufficient quad strength and with some advancement of cumulative trauma micro-tears to the knee ligaments and cartilage, a perfect storm was brewing, silently and steadily.
While transferring multiple lightweight reels of cable from one pallet to another, I herniated my L5 disc. It was stupid. I was lifting and twisting with feet planted. All the force was on the lower back. I felt paralyzed for days. For years afterward, pain shot down my leg. Even today, the top of my left foot is numb from the nerve damage. It turns out that nerve damage also put my quadriceps to sleep to some degree. I had lost some strength and did not even know it.
The anesthesiologist taught me all about putting the quad to sleep just as he administered the nerve block before my surgery. He said it was like a concussion. The quad became 100% non-functional. The nerve block for ACL surgery provided not just pain relief, but also removed the muscle actions upon the knee. This enabled the surgeon to work on replacing the ACL without any muscle stress. Unfortunately, the nerve block does its job so well that upon waking up, the quadriceps were utterly useless. They became target number one for physical therapy starting the next day. Regaining even a twitch took weeks.
Armstrong and Aldrin landed on the moon. But this seven-year-old was landing tackles and sacks for the Green Bay Packers in some good old neighborhood backyard football. That’s where my knee traumas started. But I was proud of limping off the field like Ray Nitschke, being a man, staying tough, living up to the nickname my mates gave me. Knees don’t care about all that ego stuff. They just break down a little. And they never heal. Kids play on.
You are young now my friend. OCR, training, and fitness are your life. Injuries are bound to happen. Some are worse than others. Some accumulate over time to produce unexpected, traumatic injuries. While I just gave you perfect 20-20 hindsight, I have to tell you that we rarely see these things coming. They just happen, and we deal with them. Ultimately they leave us with lots of questions.
People wonder why I’m doing OCR at my age. Why train so hard? OK, so I’m in the best shape of your life. I look and feel great. So what.
Because I can.
Because I learn things along the way to help others. So that maybe, just maybe you can be spared some of the cumulative trauma that is bound to come your way.
Amelia, your journey into this world did not start last year. You now recognize that. You know how the imbalances, the stresses, the time all factors in. You understand that some of the lingering issues may create potential cumulative trauma in the future. Right? Do you get that? Will you still be in the game twenty years from now Amelia? I sure hope so. I hope I am too. And you.
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