Inland Paddler: Out of the Line Up Because of “Injury”

Off the Water Because of Injury

“What did you do to your knee? You fall of your skateboard?”
“Did you hurt your knee surfing?”

People always assume that an outdoor athlete’s chosen sport must always be the mode of injury when one of us gets hurt. And there’s always a tinge of judgement, it seems, lobbed at the athlete (usually from non-athlete or non adventure types) when they’re seen on crutches, or wearing a brace.

But more often than not, it’s silly little, everyday things that sideline us – maybe it’s a dumb kitchen accident, or stepping the wrong way off a curb, or,as in my case, just plain ol’ use.

Going Back in Time

Ten years ago, after tearing my left meniscus skateboarding (okay, whatever) my ortho told me I had the knees of a 25 year old. However, something caused the aging process to accelerate in at least one of my knees and in what seems like a blink of the eye, I am facing a total knee replacement. In the RIGHT knee.

So much for having the knees of a 25 year old.

Age happens.

No matter what we think we are doing to slow it down.

And all this time, I have been more worried about my shoulders, as a paddle athlete, and doing what I need to in order to keep them strong and healthy and protected against the dreaded repetitive use injury. And subsequent surgery.

No Explanation or Reason, Really

Who knows what caused the osteoarthritis in my knee to suddenly take off. I can tell you I had no previous knee issues that made me concerned. Other that the usual, random creaking sounds I assumed were associated with age. Those came and went. And yeah, it was harder to get back up from bending over to pick something up. But no pain. Whatever.

My doctors tell me that sometimes happens – that the slow degeneration of cartilage in the joint occurs without symptoms. There’s no hint that the cushioning between joints is slowly changing at the cellular level and leaking into the knee’s synovial fluid before being pulverized by the inflammatory response. More or less.

The result ultimately is bone on bone action and pain. Plus loss of mobility. Then more pain.

On top of more frustration, anger and even more frustration. Because it can keep you off the water.

And for me, being on the water is really everything.

It is how I manage stress and anxiety, among other things. And let me tell you, those two things have just taken off right now. I blame a lot of the things we’ve all be going through the last year and a half. The stress has creeped up on me, perhaps like it has you as well. We think we are managing it just fine and then BOOM! One day we realize we really aren’t.

Yes I am frustrated that I cannot do the things that usually help me mitigate this kind of stress and anxiety.

But, I am learning that often times, it is better to focus on the things you CAN do, rather than the things you can’t. For me that’s yoga (certain poses,) meditation, breath work – the kind free divers work on, and the stationary bike. Or as an alternative to get outside, the e-bike set up so that I can still spin, like I can on the bike trainer, but not put and load/resistance on the knee.

And my doctor has urged me to try getting on the prone board. Whoo hoo!

Pre-op testing for the TKR also brought some old issues to the surface and I am having to revisit them. Full disclosure: that’s kind of scary. Especially since I am older.

But here’s the thing about that: ignoring them but having that fear always niggling away in the back of your mind is a million times worse then just naming it, getting acquainted with it and then, to quote Matt Damon in The Martian, sciencing the shit out of it to address it head on. Find out all you can about the situation and then do something about it.

Running away from it isn’t helpful. And it doesn’t help with the anxiety.

Not doing anything about it always make the situation worse.

So, I will be proactive with both my knee and my other issue.  I will use this time to improve, not devolve into anxiety and depression.I will use this time to learn how to better accept everything, instead of fight against it. I will focus on what I can do.

And I will do it.

That is my story and I am sticking to it.