Injuries Happen, what now!

2 May 2018
By: Michelle Mortimer (aka Morts)

As much as we’d love to believe that we are invincible, the sad truth is that we are not. Despite our best intentions and careful management of training, diet and life, the universe does like to throw us a curve ball from time to time to remind us we are not completely in control. To this end, I am referring to the inevitable injuries that we tend to find ourselves dealing with from time to time.

I have been blessed over my many years of playing various kinds of sports to not have suffered too many setbacks in this field. Minor strains, sure enough, who hasn’t had those. In my late teens I suffered a fairly severe ankle injury, however being young recovery was fairly fast and the time moved quickly. As one ‘gains maturity’ let’s say, as I refuse to admit I am aging, old injuries become some what reoccurring niggles that one simply learns to live with. You go from having a left and a right ankle for instance to referring to them as the good and the bad ankle. Same theory applies to knees, shoulders, etc…

Then last November (2017), a simple jump onto a pavement to avoid a car, would throw everything into disarray once more. What I did not see, while casually hopping into the deep grass, was the rather interesting hole hidden beneath the surface. In what felt like extreme slow motion, I watched as my ankle caved in on itself underneath me. The noises that followed were a fascinating combination of snacks and cracks as I found myself crumpled on the floor staring at what was a beautiful blue morning sky. Then there is that brief moment, lying there, that you think, “Maybe it’s not as bad as you think it is.” You are, of course, too scared to move. There is no immediate pain, so in your mind there could not possibly be any damage. You lie there, trying to figure out how to undo the last 5 seconds of your life.

I remember hearing a car stop and then there was a gentleman’s face leaning over me, “Ma’am are you alright?” Apparently, my fall was not as graceful as I had thought, someone had noticed me go down. With that I decide it is times to assess the damage, slowly I sit up and grab my ankle. Quick feel around seems good, no bones sticking out where they shouldn’t be. The gentleman helped me too my feet, where for the first time I could feel the all too familiar feeling of ligament damage. Brain does a calculation, worst case scenario 6-8 weeks. Little secret, brain was completely off the mark with that one. The gent asks if I need a lift anywhere, but I graciously decline, still believing things are not quite as bad as I am willing to admit. I think he for his assistance and he is one his way.

Now, one thing I should probably let you know is that I am a field hockey player by design. We believe in always trying to ‘run off’ an injury. I’m not entirely sure why as this very rarely actually solves the issue, but as I am a creature of habit I decided to try finish my run. Yes, you heard me right and yes, in hindsight that was an incredibly bad idea. I managed to get a further 3km into my run before the adrenalin started to wear off and the waves of nauseating pain started to hit. It was time to admit defeat, I was not going to be able to run this one off. By the time I made it back to my car, bruising was setting in nicely and the swelling had started to rise. With a heavy heart I set about planning my recovery and adjusting upcoming training plans.

The next few weeks consisted of the good old RICE approach to recovery. Rest Ice Compression and Elevation. Once the swelling was down enough, started with basic mobility exercises get things moving again. Very slow, very controlled movements. Rome was not built in a day, it was time to be patient.

Within 2 weeks I was feeling good enough to try a little exercise. The only option available to me really was swimming. For the next while it would be me and my pullbuoy, trying to keep the fitness up.

A few more weeks and I realized I could ride a bike without much discomfort. Unclipping was another story though. Getting off the bike was rather amusing and involved having to take the shoe off while still attached to the pedal. How I didn’t fall over this time I still not entirely sure.

The running took much longer, before I could get the takkies back on again. Impact on the ankle was still quite painful up until late January 2018. This also included funny angles, like when trying to run up a hill or down. To start I hit the elliptical for short periods of time before I was confident enough that my ankle could hold its own on a more uneven surface. Then it was slowly back onto the road for gentle flat runs, slowly starting to rebuild.

I’m happy to report that, although I still treat my ankle with kid gloves, it is more or less back to its old self now. It still has its moments, and somehow my good ankle is now my bad ankle, but I can now skip and hop on and off pavements pain free and with semi confidence in its ability to keep my upright. There is finally light at the end of a very long injury tunnel, and it wasn’t an oncoming train.

Due to the injury though, I did have to pull out of one of the big events I had planned for 2018. It was a hard decision, but the right one. I am okay with that, there is always next year.

So, what did I learn from the last few months. Well, the first and most obvious thing is that I am not in my teens anymore. I needed to give my body time to heal and in giving it that time I will come back stronger that before. When returning to activity I took it slow and am still slowly building. Clearly, I was not going to be hitting any pbs anytime soon. Getting back to form is going to take a while, there is no rushing it. It feels a little like starting from scratch all over again, but the good news is that form and ability is not lost forever. It does return. I was able to do it once, I will be able to do it again.

The second thing I learned is that the break was not a bad thing. The injury forced me into some down times that I probably would not have taken otherwise. It gave the rest of me a time to recover as well. Mentally the lack of training for a while was an adjustment, but it was not the end of the world. I had to just give myself the time to heal and accept that it is what it is.

The last thing, I wish I had realized earlier though, was that I should have adjusted my diet to compensate for the decreased amount of training. The body still wanted to fuel like it was business as usual. The depression that accompanies the lack of training didn’t help with the best nutritional choices at times either. The combination of over fueling, bad choices and my ever-present battle with my weight in general, resulted in some unwanted scale changes. Not catastrophic changes, but it is important to acknowledge them. Thankfully, this too is not an irreversible situation.

We are stronger than we know, we can overcome what we are faced with. We start again…