Injury Lessons

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By Ernst Vikne (Ouch! Uploaded by shizhao) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Reflecting on the last few posts, injuries have become an underlying theme of the stories I have shared. Whether it be from entering a head-butting contest with the floor while attending first-aid training or dancing on a broken leg, the act of injuring oneself provides a powerful learning experience and serves as a constant reminder of best practices.

Take running for example. I love running; especially when it can be done outside. That does not mean however, that I started out knowing anything about running. One sunny morning in grade 10, I decided on a whim to strap on a cheap pair of business-casual shoes and take to the streets. Surprisingly, my first injury did not come from my grossly inappropriate footwear, but rather from a chance decision to attend a track and field training session. Ironically enough, while attending my first and only training session with professional coaches, I suffered a collapsed lung and was put out of commission for a few weeks.

From this I learned a few things. First, the operation to recover from a collapsed lung is short and straightforward, with the only drawback being when they inject Gravol in one arm and Morphine in the other. Gravol feels like sharp gravel being pushed through your veins while Morphine feels…well amazing and how you would imagine Morphine should feel. Having both in your body at once working their way towards your chest however is a strange experience, with half your body in pure agony while the other half feels like it’s on a rocket ship to the moon. In the end however, morphine wins out and you go on a nice trip through the solar system.

Lesson number two was that people with my body type (that is to say, very lanky) are prone to collapsed lungs, particularly when pushed to sprint over and over. This led me to the realization that organized sports just weren’t my thing. If I was going to run, I wanted to do it on my own terms and have any injuries that developed be squarely of my own making.

I later achieved just that when I developed a hairline fracture (a crack running down the length of the shin bone) through years of running a 3 kilometre stretch to university from my house, wearing business-casual shoes, a 15lb backpack, and another 10 pounds of heavy clothing during winter. Also I did no stretching…as in zero flexibility training before or after running (somewhere out there, an athletic therapist is vomiting with rage). A six-week recovery period gave me pause however and allowed me to reflect on the importance of proper running techniques and equipment. I reluctantly replaced my business-casual shoes, overused to the point that the toes curled like Christmas elf shoes and the inside padding was worn right down to the plastic frame. With actual running shoes, I entered a world of difference, as my legs and feet were well-supported and maintained for years to come…until I decided to run marathon and annihilated the lower half of my body doing so, but that’s a story for another post (maybe Friday).

I am a firm believer that the best way to learn a new activity is to dive in, get hurt and then reflect on the setback as a means of further improvement in that activity. Obviously I don’t advocate promoting risk or injury to the point of permanent debilitation or death, as you want to still be able to perform the task. However, injury; so long as it is not permanent in nature, serves as a powerful motivator, pushing you towards improving in your chose an activity and avoiding repeating the mistakes that got you the injury in the first place.

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