Last night I made an appointment with a sports medicine doctor, the same one Mark has been seeing ad libitum to deal with his assorted chronic injuries.
I've never had a single sports-related injury in my entire life.
For the first 34 years of my life, I attributed this to having assiduously avoided the number one risk factor for sports-related injuries: participating in sports.
The last six years, since I took up swimming and running, I've been attributing my aging yet injury-free lifestyle to, variously, luck; naturally flexible joints; and a reluctance to go very fast when trying new things.
Swimming didn't really scare me, since it's famous for being the thing you do when other sports hurt you. But running is different -- believe me, I surprised myself when, the first time I hesitantly raised my speed on the treadmill above "trot," my knees did not immediately swell up and fall apart. I really thought that Never Having Done That Before would make me liable to break an ankle or something the first time I tried it. I pictured that RUN FORREST RUN scene, only in my imagination it wouldn't be a bunch of metal leg braces that would be coming apart and sending shrapnel in all directions, but my actual legs.
Granted, I may have gotten this impression from observing my husband, who has been dealing with one bodily pain after another since he was in about eighth grade: spinal compression fracture, pulled hamstring, pulled quads, plantar fasciitis, tibial stress fractures, some thing that happened once when he played racquetball too hard, and the inevitable Just A Flesh Wounds that come with rock and ice climbing.
After a while Mark had an epiphany. He stopped going to see doctors who would tell him that he should quit doing things that hurt him. He started going to see doctors who would tell him how he could keep doing things that hurt him for as long as possible, up to and including banging his head against a wall. Enter sports medicine.
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So what is my appointment for, if I'm not hurt yet? Well, actually I am, sort of, just not because of sports. Check out this scar on my right wrist (it extends just down to where the bracelet rests):
I have had that scar since I was about twelve years old. Faded now, once it was an angry purple, with the stitch marks like railroad tracks. The story goes like this:
Once upon a time I started down the steps of my friend's front porch with a pint mason jar of ice water in my hand, and I tripped.
[Sensitive to gore? You've been warned.]
I caught my weight on my palms on the concrete. The glass went SMASH and big old shards of that pint jar (along with a hell of a lot of teeny splinters) were thrust up into my wrist. The glass sliced right through the flexor tendons and nerves servicing my index and middle finger, while severely damaging (but not quite severing) the thumb's flexor and nerves, and nicking the connections that travel to the ring finger and pinky.
Commence dreamlike sequence:
Blood everywhere, and my friend's mom's dishtowel around my forearm, and my friend running to get my mom, and the front seat of the car on the way to the hospital, and waiting for the doctor, and the horrible horrible moment when he turned my arm from palm down to palm up and my hand went FLOP BACKWARDS A LOT FARTHER THAN HANDS ARE SUPPOSED TO FLOP and that's when I started screaming my head off. Then the big needle with the local anesthetic, which to this day is the thing I say was the worst pain ever, and yes I have had five natural childbirths thankyouverymuch, and eventually the mask and the darkness as they sent me in for orthopedic surgery, which besides the effort that went into the reconstruction of my wrist, must have involved a great deal of tweezing.
End dreamlike sequence. Commence many weeks of physical therapy, months of wearing a series of casts and braces on my arm, and years of fascinating neurological symptoms as my body dealt with linking up the nerves that the surgeon had reattached.
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I write with my left hand anyway, so that has never been a problem. I took typing the year after the accident and I can type quite fast and almost normally, as long as I don't think about what I'm doing (which means that this paragraph is not going very fast).
This wrist is the reason why I never even tried to find out if I would share my husband's love of rock climbing.
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Some years before I took up swimming and running, I tried weightlifting for a while. I enjoyed it, especially squats, but there were a number of exercises that I never could get very far with because of that damn wrist.
----I can't do a pushup, even a girlie pushup, because I can't put my palm flat on the floor.
----I can't do a chinup, even a negative chinup. I just drop down and hang there.
----I can only do the very lightest of lat pulldowns. The muscle strength is there, but the fear of my wrist coming apart has always stopped me.
I have been favoring this wrist for twenty-seven years. I take extra care in the kitchen with hot things because I never have developed complete sensation in the ends of my thumb, index finger, and middle finger. If I must button a shirt or manipulate a small object, you'll see me use my thumb in opposition to my third and fourth finger rather than the first and second. I'm afraid to lift anything really heavy, like a suitcase, because once the weight gets too big I feel these odd little shooting twinges deep in my forearm, and I have a mental image of that hand FLOPPING BACKWARDS, and I have to drop the suitcase.
Anyway, it occurred to me that I don't actually know whether I can, in fact, lift weights without my wrist coming apart. I'm afraid of it happening, but it isn't actually based in any knowledge. I haven't had the wrist examined since my last PT appointment as a teenager. I don't know if weightlifting is even dangerous for the wrist at all. I don't know whether it would be possible to strengthen the wrist and improve my grip and make the shooting twinges go away. I don't know whether there are ways I could modify barbell exercises and lat pulldowns to make them work even with one bad wrist. I have heard of ways to modify pushups, but I don't know whether it might be better to try to regain enough range of motion to be able to do a normal one.
And I think I'd like to try getting stronger, doing more with my hands and arms. Maybe the wrist is a real obstacle to that. But the truth is that I've never run up against that obstacle, because I've been running up against my own ignorance about it instead. Time to change that.