Injuries

Part 2

 

The End

Performing a simple handspring vault, I landed incorrectly, meaning one foot took a disproportionate amount of the impact, mainly on the big toe joint from pointing my toes so much during the move. I was competing in an international friendly at the time and oddly I had complained to my coach that this vault was too easy for my level.  I almost felt like Kerri Strug in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.   I was in incredible pain but presented to the judge before hobbling off to the side. Bruising and swelling came almost instantly. Half of my foot was swollen, I couldn’t fit it into my shoe. At the hospital I was told that there were no breaks and just to rest.

 

 

 I was in terrible pain and on crutches for  two months.  For the next few months I trained occasionally but was unable to cope with the pain for any length of time.  Something was never right. I saw two specialists who couldn’t see much of a problem, except a very swollen tendon (“which will go down”), bruising and a lack of movement in the joint due to the swelling. They refused to operate on me, instructing me to ice it before and after training and whenever I felt I needed it.

 

When I was seventeen, I had to stop training altogether.  It broke my heart to make this decision but there was no other way, I was just in too much pain. I lived with the pain for 3 years, not being able to walk home from school or wear high heels, like every other girl did, without being crippled within an hour.  I was devastated.

 

Nearly three years ago, I was referred to a podiatrist. During the first visit, I was diagnosed with a “Femoral Anteversion”, a congenital disorder in which the femur becomes twisted and the hip ball-and-socket joint does not sit correctly. Although it is a disorder I’ve had possibly since I was in the womb, the imbalance of my feet played heavily on my hip, only aggravating the disorder. You can see in this picture, how the the “ball” of the “ball and socket”  joint is rotated compared to that on the left.

I now have frequent appointments to have my legs, from hips to toes, manipulated and mobilized. To put it bluntly, I lie on the plinth and hold onto the sides while my feet are cracked and bent in mysterious ways and the rest of my joints are pulled,pushed, popped and cracked. The podiatrist also discovered numerous tiny fractures in my past x-rays and tears in the large tendon in my foot, which was in danger of rupturing at some point in the future. I can now wear heels, I can train without pain and swelling.

 

Unfortunately, the diagnosis was too late. I wish it had been made six years ago as I never reached my peak performance.

 

 Coping with injury

As I said at the beginning, it’s not only physical pain the gymnast has to cope with, but emotional pain too. Having to retire as a practicing gymnast made me feel extremely down and disheartened. I took a few weeks out to get myself together. It always feels odd coming into the gym when injured, everyone’s looking at you and you’re looking back, watching your team mates train and achieve new moves, all the while thinking, “I hope she doesn’t get better than me”.

 

The emotional pain is tough. The one place I would go to escape everything was where the problem stirred from.  There is a strong temptation to feel sorry for yourself, thinking that the injury wasn’t your fault. However, Gymnastics isn’t a team or contact sport – you can’t simply blame someone else for, say, a bad tackle. You know that your technicalities were incorrect and are now suffering the consequences.


 Injury is a very tough thing to get through and to get over. When returning after injury there is the frustration that you have to be very careful as your body is vulnerable. There is also the terrible psychological factor that it may take many gymnasts weeks, months or longer to perform the same move that caused the injury. It’s a dangerous sport but well worth  it for the thrills

6 Comments

  1. Rebecca says:

    I have a son who was in gymnastics but had to stop due to leg and foot pain, so I was wondering where your pain was located. Was it in the hip? My son has been to many doctors, but he has never been diagnosed with anything. Thank you!

  2. Admin says:

    Hi Rebecca, I won’t give you medical advice because each persons body is so unique. The pain I experience in my hip or foot that indicates the I have a certain problem will not necessarily mean the same for your son if he is suffering from pain in the same area. Have you been to Doctors who specialise in foot pain? I went to many specialist before I finally found someone who could diagnose my condition. One good way to start is by making sure that your child has the correct footwear and to have their feet assessed by a Podiatrist. I see a lot of kids in gym and clients who come to me who aren’t wearing shoes that have proper support and have bad structural problems in their feet. I hope your son isn’t in too much pain and can continue doing other sports 🙂

  3. Gym coach says:

    Hi,

    your post is so honest & personal it’s lovely! I relaly enjoyed it. it’s a real pity that you had to give up gym when you didn’t want to and you weren’t ready to. I hope that you enjoy coaching as much as you did training!

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