Aug 27, 2013

Coming back from injury- physical

I have pulled my MCL, had two concussions, broke a toe, broke my ankle, seriously sprained the other ankle, and had major surgery. Only the MCL and one of the concussions happened on the ice, but all of them affected my skating.

In my 21 years in the rink, I've seen two career-ending injuries-- a skater with severe nerve damage from crashing into the boards, and a shattered kneecap (again, skater meets boards).

So here's the heirarchy of who gets a say:
The skater
If you are in pain do not train full out. You can skate, as in make it around the rink in skates, but if you have, for instance, dislocated your kneecap and it doesn't feel good, for god's sake, don't jump.  You probably know the level of pain that feels like injury as opposed to lack of training. Don't let anyone tell you that you're being a wimp, or that you "can't possibly still be in that much pain."

The doctor
This one's tricky, because most doctors I've talked to don't get skating at all, and athletes in general only moderately better. Thank goodness I managed to find a bone and joint guy who was a skater, because the first one I had was a complete idiot, insisting that since I'd been skating, I must have broken my kneecap (a rare injury, despite the above) rather than tearing the ligament (extremely common).  Doctors also often go straight to "quit," not understanding that you may not consider this an option.

If you're uncomfortable with your doctor's advise, or mistrust her expertise, find, as I did, a doctor who gets it, or ask your doctor to recommend a sports injury specialist.

If your doctor has you on painkillers, please do not skate while you are taking them. I once had a parent come up to the judge's booth at an audition to explain that her daughter had fallen on every single jump because she was, essentially, high on painkillers. We were pretty speechless.

The parent
With older skaters, parent and skater need to assess the resumption of training together. With younger skaters, it's the parents call in conjunction with medical advice.

The coach
I almost didn't even put the coach on the list, because when it comes to injury that has required medical attention, the coach is almost not even part of the question. I have received emails from skaters asking what to do when their coach pressures them to train, even though one, some, or all of the people above aren't ready. Do not let your coach pressure you to train at a level you do not feel you're ready for. If you miss a competition, or a test, or a season, then you miss it. Better than crippling yourself for life.

Edit. From the comments, a great link from L.A. Skate Dad: http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/figure-skating-injury-prevention.aspx
Have you had a serious injury? How did you resume training?

19 comments:

  1. Partially torn hamstring. Still rehabilitating after over 16 months. Tried PT - made it worse. Then tried platelet-rich plasma treatment, very expensive, very painful and considered experimental so insurance won't pay. Off ice for about 6 weeks then a VERY slow return to walking and skating and more, milder, PT. Feels better but won't ever be completely healed. Having to limit hours per week on skating and other exercise. Still doing PT exercises on my own. Hoping one day I won't feel the injury every day but not there yet. Went to sports medicine doctor who was sympathetic to my desire to stay on the ice.

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    1. Oh wow, that's a bad one. Did you do it skating?

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    2. I did it stretching for skating. It was a chronic injury, not something where I felt 'rip'. And I kept on stretching it, and skating, and walking, until the pain got bad enough that I couldn't do edge pulls anymore, or spirals, or walk up a curb starting with that leg. I don't think I understand 'good pain' versus 'bad pain'.

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  2. I sprained my ankle badly on a jump landing (not on the landing leg). It hurt so sharply and severely that I couldn't get up off the ice without help. But it never really swelled at all, and the coach who'd helped me off the ice took a glancing look and said, "oh, you can keep skating." I went home. I felt very timid even a week later on the ice due to the pain, had no lateral strength at all, so I benched myself from skating for a while and did off-ice work instead. This was May. It is only in the last week that the ankle feels back to full strength: it turns out that it was a (much rarer) upper ankle rather than lower ankle sprain, and one hallmark of these is that they swell hardly at all, but take a very much longer time to heal.

    Granted, I am in my early 40s, so I don't heal like a teenager would. But if I'd listened to a coach or even to the basic info online about common sprained ankles, I would have tried to skate too soon. Because I don't have to train over the summer, I worked on strength and flexibility instead. I know my on-ice will have suffered a little in the two months I took off, but I feel like it was the right choice to wait until the lateral strength was back before I pushed myself again.

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  3. I suffered 2 bad injuries this year alone. The first was when I fractured my kneecap after I landed wrong on a 1/2 flip. Then, a few months later, I suffered a concussion after I hit my head on the ice. My knee injury forced me off the ice for six weeks, and it took some time for me to overcome my fear of falling after I got back on the ice.

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    1. You might want to try wearing an Ice Halo. It's a helmet for figure skaters and curlers. I got one after a head injury and it works great. It fits like a headband and is barely noticeable while skating.

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    2. Check out my resources page! Mention Xanboni in the "notes" box when you order it for 10% off!

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  4. Torn meniscus. Four-5 months to skate again. This time I was so weak I spent time just doing lap skating, working up to an hour non-stop. It was amazing how much that muscle building improved my skating. When I started doing skills again, I was better than before the injury.

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  5. My knee is always swollen and in pain, but no one can figure out the problem so I just skate through the pain. You are right about doctors not getting skating. My orthopedist said I should try not to do as many twisty things in the air.

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  6. Unfortunately skating injuries are all too common; my daughter had torn ankle ligaments and Kerlan Jobe helped her out, but it was still quite a setback.

    I think more needs to be done to prevent injuries actually; here's a good link for readers that gives some tips:

    http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/figure-skating-injury-prevention.aspx

    -- Jeff

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    1. Great link, Jeff! Edited the post to add it.

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  7. Damn! Feel better!

    Sprained my ankle (landing leg) practicing jumps on the subway platform, rested for 2 weeks, returned to skating, severely strained a ligament in my ankle, off the ice for 2 months. It healed; but I was younger and thinner then...

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  8. I've had several skating injuries: a broken R wrist (collision at public), a broken foot (off-ice spin training), random muscle injury in L quad (fall during spin) and most recently a sprained MCL and severe bone contusion in my R knee ("severe" even after the 8 weeks I had to wait to get an MRI, thanks Cigna).

    For this knee injury I was off the ice about 3.5 months, which is the longest I've been off since I started skating 10 years ago (longer even than for the foot or wrist). It took me forever to heal and it's still a bit sore at times, and my R leg is still considerably weaker than my L leg.

    I'm gradually working my way back but I seriously need to spend much more time in the gym increasing my strength esp. in the knee. I'm fortunate in that I have a) a coach who's also a personal trainer and b) a doctor who's a sports doctor and takes me seriously even though I'm almost 50 (gulp!).

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    1. Injuries in late middle age (wink) are a whole 'nother animal. My left foot has never recovered the musculature from the almost 7 weeks in a cast-- it is a half size smaller than it was, despite rigorous exercise to bring it back.

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  9. I did find your comment about doctors somewhat intriguing.

    I am a 59 year old male ski instructor and just took up skating this summer to get back in shape after missing a season of skiing due to a torn right leg MCL that I suffered last December. I was worrying about being totally out of shape (physically and balance wise) for skiing this winter and decided to try ice skating, since it involves sliding on frozen stuff and using edges. I have fallen in love with skating, somewhat to my wife's dismay. Her response was "Great, another expensive sport to go along with skiing".

    During my third Adult 1 lesson one of the other students fell and slid butt first into my right leg resulting in a sprain. Back to the orthopedist that treated my MCL where I did get good news that it was a minor sprain and had not damaged the MCL. He thought skating was a good exercise to get my strength and balance back for skiing. He is part of a sports medicine group that treats local high school and college athletes as well as hockey league skaters so he does have a positive bias towards sports.

    My physical therapist also thinks skating is a very good form of exercise/rehabilitation.

    The nurse and x-ray tech at the orthopedist office did look at me like I was crazy when I was explaining that I was learning skating as rehab.

    I start Adult 2 next week and hope to finish Adult 3 before ski season starts.

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    1. Ah.. AOSS (Adult-Onset Skating Syndrome) strikes again! Welcome :-)

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  10. I'm not a skater but I am a running enthusiast. I've suffered a number of sports injuries before, including tearing ligaments and tons of sprained ankles. Getting injured is a big blow when it's competition season but getting the right treatment is much more important than adding race bibs to my collection.

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  11. Good thing you found a doctor who know a lot about skating. At least, the doctor knows what you are experiencing, and he/she can easily understand what he/she has to do. Another thing, you can get advice from him/her on how to make your skating less risky for you.
    Darryl Hier @ U.S. Health Works Medical Group

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  12. Consulting the right doctor for the job can indeed be tricky. Like you’ve said, it is best to look for one who specializes in sports injuries since he would have the most experience with such problems. Getting one that skates would be a welcome bonus, but don’t make it your no.1 requirement.

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