Choosing to be injured.
Broken bones, torn ligaments, sprains, black eyes, friction burn, hematomas, serious concussion you name it I've pretty much had them all over the last five years of skating.
The only difference now is I'm choosing to be injured.
Over the last 18 months I've suffered with chronic pain in my right ankle. Sometimes its sharp, sometimes its a constant dull ache, sometimes I can bear weight sometimes I can't bear it at all.
What I do know is that it started over 18 months ago with a twisted ankle at training accompanied by a swift kick with a truck across the bottom of my shin and continued through my own stubbornness and pride to where I am today.
Being the enthusiastic and passionate (stupid and impatient) skater I was, I took a week or so off thinking I could shake it off. I came back and skated again and the pain was still there although not as bad. It wasn't until we had an away game a few weeks later, mid jam I had shooting pains sear up my leg. I continued through till the end of the period where I had to drop out.
A trip to the A&E confirmed that nothing was broken (yet) and I was ushered out with a pair of crutches and no more advice other than you've probably damaged the ligaments so stay off it till it stops hurting and take pain killers.
I sought out an MRI scan which I was refused and sent to a physio. Although the condition improved slightly the pain was still there and I wasn't convinced something worse was afoot (terrible pun). I had faith in my Physio and the NHS so persevered as long as I could.
I returned to training but now with a weakness in my right leg. I knew I shouldn't have been at training really and should have pestered my GP for further investigation. My movements were limited and my balance wasn't great. I still pushed forward though finally making it onto the A team for my first season despite being in constant pain.
After a few months and looking forward to a heavy bouting schedule, I forced myself to put my worries about my ankle being up to the job behind me and immersed myself into training and cross training ignoring the pain. It worked. I had convinced myself it didn't hurt. I believed that the pain wasn't a big deal and soldiered on.
(CCR v Kallio SKOD 2014 - photo Alex Baumans)
I had finally been given my shot as an A team skater and I wasn't going to drop out for anything. Its just a bit of pain I thought. Derby girls are tougher than this. I don't want someone to call me a whaambulance.
A few weeks before our next big home game against Paris I was at training, I hit the back of the wall awkwardly and was taken off balance. As I fell to the floor I went to pull my legs in but I was a fraction too slow and the skater I engaged toppled backwards and landed on my ankle inverting it making several audible cracks. I thought that was it. The swelling came fast. The pain was unbearable.
The rapid response doctor was great and my team mate kept me smiling reminding me I can't break my ankle as I wasn't the captain. Only the captains end up broken in our league. (There's a long running joke that our captains at CCR are cursed with injury).
As I lay on that cold sports hall floor I remember thinking my season had just started and yet it had just finished too. I was devastated to think I'd be off skates again.
The diagnosis of 'there's nothing wrong with you' appeared this time.
Another four weeks off but this time I found a different physio who I worked with closely to monitor my injury. She identified potential tears and chronic weakness in the joint but was hopefully that with the correct rehab and cross training I could continue skating.
We worked together to get me back to skating with the correct brace and exercise programme and it worked... For a while.
The pain resurfaced despite following her advice and treatments and after a long drawn out process I was finally referred to the hospital sports medicine specialist, ordered an MRI scan and was delivered the news.
A fractured ankle, broken metatarsal, chronic partial tear along two tendons, fluid pockets and osteoarthritis on the end of the fractured bone. When I left that hospital office all of a sudden my ankle hurt. I mean really hurt. More than it had ever done before.
I'd pushed all the pain away for 18 months and now I knew I faced surgery everything changed. My body had been telling me for months that it wasn't right. I chose to ignore it and keep skating.
(Just a few things wrong then... MRI report)
So I've decided to be injured. Not just for surgery and rehab. Not for derby. But for my long term health. Chronic injuries can be debilitating if left untreated and I was starkly reminded that had I continued heavy weight lifting and skating in my condition at some point my ankle would have snapped (likely at the squat rack) leaving me facing a bigger set of problems and it was likely I would not be able to walk without an aid by the time I reached 40.
The osteoarthritis won't disappear now, but the rest of my body can heal with the correct application of treatment and patience.
I've decided to be injured for my mental health too. Not listening to my body has left me mentally and physically exhausted over the last 18 months and since accepting it I've learnt a lot about letting go and not being afraid of missing out on things in the short term. Its also helped me to process the injury better and stop putting pressure on myself to bounce back quickly.
Its OK to feel crappy. Its OK to cry sometimes. But its also OK to be excited about your progress and chasing your goal of returning to exercise. You need to accept your feelings and don't get wound up when your feeling down because you think you need to put on a brave face.
So to close. If you're injured, listen to your body. Listen to your mind. Don't fight it with arrogance and pride. Your body is a machine that needs servicing and if its broken or worn down, let it heal.
Also if you're unhappy with your initial diagnosis don't be afraid to seek a second opinion. Pain is a red flag that something's wrong, not something to have your own personal battle with. Luckily in this country (UK) we have the luxury of free healthcare so use it. Seek sports specialists for your referrals. Talk with your GP about your concerns and pursue the best treatment and diagnosis. It might take a while but the NHS are pretty ace when you tap into the right resources.
Injuries might be a cool tick list in your younger years of contact sport but they soon add up to larger problems. Look after yourself and your body will look after you.