Ex-NAACP leader Rachel Dolezal, once a white and freckle-faced young woman with blonde hair, in the midst of a media meltdown, said to the world, “I identify as black”. Former Olympic gold medalist and Wheaties spokesperson Bruce Jenner transitioned out of the closet and said to the world, “I identify as a woman” and formally changed her gender and name to Caitlyn Jenner. I myself have not encountered an identity crisis of this magnitude, but I have a problem. For the record, I identify as a couch potato, preferably a couch potato with a good book and a cup of tea at hand. While I am most certainly not an athlete in any way, shape, or form, I continue to be plagued with typically sports-related injuries.
Last week I was plagued with a sore shoulder. It started when I woke up on Monday and I wrote it off as having “slept wrong”. The pain continued all day, even after taking Advil. On Tuesday, the pain was somewhat worse, and more troubling, it was hurting on the outside of my shoulder, not just inside. The skin on the top of my shoulder was very sensitive and sore to the touch. Wednesday brought pain inching its way up the number chart and I tried the heating pad that evening when I came home. Thursday, even after Aleve, it still hurt, so much so that I couldn’t go to sleep for a while, trying to get in a position that didn’t pull on it. On Friday, while driving to school, I heard the report that Stephen Strasburg, the pitcher for the Washington Nationals, had had a non-cancerous tumor removed from his shoulder. Naturally, I freaked out and began to imagine all sorts of scenarios where I hadn’t “slept wrong” at all but had something really seriously wrong with my shoulder.
By lunchtime on Friday, I made the decision to make an appointment with my doctor for that same afternoon. She asked me a few questions and immediately said, “rotator cuff”. I could not believe what I was hearing. How in the world did I get a rotator cuff injury? Wasn’t this something that baseball players and tennis players get? Naturally I did some research on Google and found that it can happen to anyone, not just athletes, from a fall or repetitive heavy lifting, neither of which applies to me. The OrthoInfo site, sponsored by American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, also says that it is almost always the dominant arm, which again does not apply to me as I am left-handed and it is my right arm that is affected.
This is not my first sports injury. In the fall of 2007, I fell while on a school field trip, landing flat on my back across a railroad tie, with my left leg twisted and under me. I was helped to a picnic table (we were out in the woods doing a low-ropes course with the 7th grade), where I sat with an ice pack on my knee until it was time to board the bus for the trip back to school. A colleague brought me to the emergency room when my principal saw that I was unable to walk unaided. Diagnosis: torn ACL. Seriously. Who gets a torn ACL while on a field trip? The orthopedic surgeon who examined me and my MRI said, “This is a basketball injury, you know.”
This same knee had seen its share of misery before. In 1980, just before Christmas, I walked over to my television set to change the channel (broken remote) and then turned to walk back to my couch. I heard a slight crackling sound and down I went. A friend carried me to the backseat of his car and drove me to the emergency room as I writhed in pain. Diagnosis: dislocated knee and torn cartilage. The orthopedic who examined me that night, called back to the hospital from his squash game-poor thing, also informed me that this was usually an injury caused by running and twisting motions like in tennis or basketball, not usually from changing the channel on the TV.
In 1995 I leaned into the backseat of my car to check the seatbelts of my 3-year old and 5-year old daughters. When I straightened up I knew something was wrong, very wrong. I managed to get myself into the driver’s seat and drive the few blocks to their school. I “walked” them in to their classrooms and then somehow managed to get myself back home. My husband came home and took me to the doctor, who sent me straight to a clinic for a MRI. Diagnosis: ruptured disc, with pieces of it pinching my sciatic nerve in my left leg. It was Labor Day weekend, so I had to wait until Tuesday for surgery. This is a classic golf injury, and while I took golf to fulfil my health requirements in college, I had not touched a set of clubs since then.
I’ve worn an eye patch twice in my lifetime. The first time was when I was in first or second grade and happened to come between two quarreling boys in my classroom. A punch was thrown and it landed on my right eye instead of the intended victim. The doctor joked and said that it looked like I had taken up boxing. Uh, no, just trying to retrieve my box of crayons from my desk. The second time I took on the pirate’s disguise was in 1977 when I received roses from the fraternity I served as “little sister”. I leaned in to smell them, and my suitemate bumped my arm, causing the decorative ferns in the vase to jab me in the left eye. Cut on the cornea, infection, eye swollen shut, trip to the campus infirmary and an ophthalmologist resulted in the wearing of an eye patch for a few weeks and all sorts of drops and salves administered throughout the day and night.
Even though I don’t identify as an outdoorsy type, I still managed to contract Lyme disease in the summer of 2007. Perfect bulls-eye target in not one but two spots was evidence enough, but the dermatologist also did the blood work to confirm it and asked if he could photograph the markings for a medical study. Had I gone hiking or camping? Uh, no, just on a college tour with my daughter the summer before her senior year.
So, I now can add rotator cuff injury to my list of sports-type injuries. It would be nice to know how I managed to injure my rotator cuff so I could avoid it in the future. I’m sure it is not from teaching literature and English all day, or directing the school plays. The only repetitive motion I do during the school year is moving my red pen around middle school essays, tests, and quizzes, and as I said, the injury is to my non-dominant arm. During holiday breaks and summers off from school, I do quite a bit of knitting and crocheting while watching TV in the evenings. I guess even though I identify as a couch potato I should start doing warm-ups and stretching exercises before I begin my needlework. I would hate to end up with tennis elbow!