Monday, October 07, 2013

Crash Legacy - The Pursuit of Sport After Injury and Age

Age, athletics and injury have all taken a toll on my left shoulder, neck and upper back.There is not a day that passes without some kind of residual pain and stiffness. I could probably cease playing the sports I love that aggravate my condition but that would definitely be a case of the "cure being worse than the disease".So I continue to cycle, play ball hockey and practice traditional archery on a regular basis despite the discomfort. To take away my "play" would be akin to placing me in the bone yard.

I believe the roots of my shoulder and neck issues date back to 2005 when I crashed hard on my left side crossing wet railway tracks during a spirited paceline on my road bike. I impacted the pavement with the hip and shoulder taking the brunt of the fall when my front wheel slid out from under me after making contact with the wet iron of the train track. The resulting hematoma on my hip pays homage to the severity of the impact.

In 2011 I again crashed on my road bike after T-boning a car that pulled out of a side street in front of me.I hit the pavement after catapulting over the hood of the vehicle. Impacting the ground upon my head and shoulder while rolling across the lane to the opposite curb I once again suffered trauma to my left shoulder and neck  I seemed to have recovered from the crashes for the most part but the legacy of both remains and, despite professional help and continued chiropractic care, has never completely healed. I am at about 90% of function most days but worse than that the day after any kind of  physical activity.

You may now be wondering about the point of all this? My point being that the human body is an amazing thing and can adapt to changing circumstances. Despite my age(50)I have been able to continue to compete and play the sports I love due to my body adjusting to the demands of my activities. I am a firm believer that maintaining fitness, proper hydration and a good diet also helps promote post exercise recovery. I also continue to practice intermittent fasting which strengthens the body via hormesis and helps alleviate chronic inflamation that often manifests itself in muscular/joint pain and stiffness. Adaptation also occurs when it comes to function. For months I was unable to even draw my bows due to shoulder pain and weakness. I am now able to enjoy archery by modifying my draw technique. As the video illustrates my draw elbow is high as I am unable to lower it without experiencing discomfort across my front shoulder extending into my neck. Initially my accuracy was terrible but over time I have adjusted to the change in draw technique and now am shooting as well as ever.

In terms of ball hockey I discovered that adding an inch to the length of my hockey stick meant that, as a left handed shooter, the impact was lessened upon my shoulder. The resulting change in my shooting technique places my neck and shoulder in a different position through the arc of the shot. My shot may not have the velocity as before due to less torque on the stick but I am able to shoot without suffering a "jab" of pain. The accuracy of my shot is actually better for the most part.

For cycling I simply switched out to a more upright stem and rotated the bar so that the brake hoods were closer. No longer using such a steep aerodynamic position has much less impact on my neck and shoulder. Since I am no longer racing and spend far less time on my road bike training there is no need to be completely aerodynamic.

I have also expanded my opportunities for play. Last season I began playing slow pitch softball after two decades away from the sport. Not only is it forgiving upon the body but I am a right handed thrower and batter which has less impact on my left shoulder and neck.

Health and wellness is all about moving the body.If it means I need to compensate for and adjust to concessions to continue to play as I age then that is an acceptable tradeoff.I also realize that the body is getting older even if the brain remains forever young(in spirit anyway). I have to play smarter with acceptable rest between activity. The alternative - being sedentary - is not an option so I need to be a better steward of Geo. For the love of sport!

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