A Soliloquy On Injury

 

by Liam Quin

Each time you enter the field of play, there is always that nagging thought at the back of your mind. The one that reminds you that there is a real chance of you being seriously injured. Riding my bike through the streets in peak hour, that thought is there as well. For the most part, it is possible to successfully avoid injury. Experience is very helpful in understanding situations and how best to protect yourself in a variety of circumstances. When I say to people that I play football, some are horrified that I would take such a risk. But I am much more frightened of playing sports that I don’t have experience in. For example, I am much more scared of the hard ball and sticks in hockey than I am of a similar ball and bat in cricket. Even with experience, however, the chance still remains that you won’t be able to walk from the field when the game ends.

In my lifetime I have been mostly fortunate with injury. Much of this comes down to chance, but it also relies on body composition and actions. When I have been injured, it is not the pain that informs me of the severity. Pain also occurs when you are not injured badly and can continue to play. The couple of times serious injury has struck, it is the feeling that something is not right. Proprioception informs you that a limb is not quite in the position that it is supposed to be. In short, you know immediately that you are hurt and badly.

Sometimes injury can come from an action that you know is dangerous. I was once accidentally knocked unconscious by a team-mate as I ran backwards with the flight of the ball and my head collided with his arm. Due to being unconscious, I didn’t know that anything was wrong when I came to. Somebody asked me what the date was and I couldn’t remember. I knew it was an important date, but it wouldn’t come to me. It was my birthday and when I realised, I knew that I shouldn’t continue to play. Sometimes an injury comes from something you are supposed to do. Once I tackled an opponent and as I pulled him to the ground, I dislocated my acromioclavicular joint. As soon as my elbow hit the ground and our collective weight forced my ligaments to tear, I knew that I wouldn’t be playing on. But sometimes injury comes from an action that seems entirely innocuous. While sliding on my knees to collect a loose ball on a dewy ground, I felt my lower leg twist and all of my weight went through the inside of my right knee.

I lay on the field and writhed around, holding my injured knee. I tried to stand, but the pain was too great and I returned to lying on the grass. When the injury occurred, I heard a sound like the clicking of fingers and in that split-second, I knew my footballing career could quite possible be finished. As I get older, I am very aware that I will not be able to play football forever. Being repeatedly questioned about why I continue adds to the sense that I don’t have much longer left to play. So as I lay on the ground and thought about that click, I thought that this could be it. A couple of team-mates came to ask if I was alright, and I told them no. The umpire asked if I needed a stretcher and I said yes, knowing that this would halt the game and I would no longer be in the way. The stretcher came, but, not wanting to be too irritating, I waved it away and chose to hop off the field with the assistance of our runner and water boy. The strange feeling in my knee told me that I wouldn’t be playing football in the near future.

When injury occurs, people often decide that it is a message that they should no longer play that sport. Although this is a realistic position, and one that doctors often support, it is not one that I was ever prepared to entertain. It may be the case that the last action I ever performed in a football game was sliding on my knees for a loose ball, but I want to be able to choose if this is so. I don’t want to be able to excuse myself from something because my body is not physically able. I want to choose whether I am involved based purely on my enjoyment of the activity.

The strangest thing about being injured is that missing the game is not the hardest part. I think that I was prepared for that. Injury always stops people from playing sport. The hardest part is the impact on your everyday life. Stairs become a major obstacle. Getting in and out of cars, an exercise in mitigating pain. Putting socks on, a yogic balancing act. And sleeping, a pain-interrupted doze. Boredom quickly sets in. One of the great things about sport is that you are out with others, doing something enjoyable. When you can’t do that, you start to pray for the next season of television shows to watch. You read aged magazines in waiting rooms to kill time. Every conversation focuses on your limp and what it means. Your condition and how it occurred are on repeat in your mind. The injury envelopes your every experience and alters it to make it more frustrating, mundane and painful.

Despite all of this, injury has not been depressing. I did anticipate that it would be and still anticipate it could be, but it hasn’t been yet. I look forward to my next appointment and to my rehabilitation exercises. Each of these gives me something to focus on so that I can return to health. I look forward to being able to ride again, to being able to go to the gym, to being able to run. The goals are clear and achievable. The dangers of sport are ever-present but there is a reason why people continue to be involved. For me, the enjoyment and pleasure that are inherent in sporting activities will remain and are not permanently dulled by the pain of injury. I look forward to taking my next mark and kicking my next goal, because sometimes rewards are worth the risk.

Comments

  1. The same Liam Quin that taught at Numurkah?

  2. The one and only. How’s things Barney? Waaia a bit unlucky this year?

  3. I know what you mean by some bad injuries not being (excruciatingly) painful but feeling not right.

    I was picking up a loose ball and was run through by a bloke coming at right angles. It sort of hurt and definitely didn’t feel right. A minute or so later, I ran to a marking contest and went up but my right arm didn’t.

  4. Sometimes a seemingly innocuous incident can result in a shocking injury. I was batting in an indoor-cricket match back in the 80’s and played the ball down to the leg side just in front of me. We didn’t run so the fielder bent down casually to retrieve the ball. Somehow his finger hooked on a piece of carpet and it just completely snapped. I can remember looking at a stick of white bone jutting out perpendicularly to the length of his finger.

    The guy required micro-surgery and didn’t play again for months.

    Let that be a lesson to us all: um… careful as you pick up a non-moving indoor cricket ball?

  5. I’ve got a similar story, Pete. I tried to take a mark in the first game of this year and I popped my finger out. It made a huge popping sound but it didn’t hurt. A couple of seconds later I tried to tackle a guy (as I had dropped the mark!) and my finger wouldn’t grab properly. I take a look at it and it is pointing in some strange direction. Probably not as bad as your arm though!

    It is strange how injury happens, Gigs. How many times have you seen somebody like Glenn Archer barreling back into a pack of oncoming players and he comes out unscathed? Then someone like Menzel turns to chase a loose ball in a final and he doesn’t play for nearly 12 months!

  6. Very true, Liam. Was always a huge Archer fan and he did that time after time, week after week. He seemed utterly fearless. Ultimately for him the rewards for risks were great and I don’t think he paid the price, injury-wise, very often.

  7. Haha just a bit of a coincidence! Glad to see you on here.

    Yeah, Waaia haven’t been lucky when it comes to winning finals for a few years now. The gamble of buying a lot of stars from Numurkah didn’t really pay off this season with a straight-sets exit from the finals. Will be interesting to see how many players they lose during the off-season.

    Gigs, you are true in saying that Archer didn’t suffer many injuries throughout his career, which is amazing, but do remember that he buggered his thumb one time and has never been able to fully extend his hand since, which is why he wore a glove for the whole of the last decade. So he was hit by injury quite hard.

    Injuries can come in the most innocous way, such as breaking your nose while doing a crossword puzzle, eh Gigs? :P

  8. Alovesupreme says

    Liam,
    I had a similar experience with a finger, playing in the paddock at home. I fell on my hand, and the finger from the knuckle upwards was at a 45 degree angle, yet I felt nothing. I had assumed that my hand was numb, as the kick around was on a very cold late afternoon. We used describe the condition as out-of-joint, although I understand that the medically correct term is dislocated.

    The shape of my several fingers demonstrate that I was anything but a skilled mark. My long suffering wife was disappointed that at the time of our marriage I was unable to wear a wedding ring, because no appropriately-sized ring could fit over the knuckle on either ring finger. The pendant option didn’t occur to us at the time.

  9. Breaking your nose while doing a crossword puzzle is a new one!

    My fingers are a bit of a mess too, Alovesupreme. Three of my fingers are pretty deformed. My wife was pleased when I came home earlier in the year because it was my right-hand ring finger that I dislocated not my left, so I can still wear my wedding ring.

    Your story also brought to mind a friend of mine’s wedding. Liam Ryan is a dual league medalist playing for North Warrnambool in the Hampden league. He is also a dairy farmer down there. Safe to say, his hands aren’t particularly delicate. On his wedding day, his wife was sliding on his wedding band and there was a sharp intake of breath from the females in the congregation. My now-wife nearly stood up and yelled “you’re putting it on the wrong hand!” but was pacified when Ryano held up his mangled left hand, showing a knuckle that not even a hula-hoop would fit over! A funny moment.

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