It occurred to me recently that not many people know my story on how I became this athlete I am today and why love doing what I do as a clinician and a coach. I’ve never fully explained why I transitioned to a coaching aspect with my career in order to help athletes minimize their injuries rather than being a “normal” PT who only treats injured athletes and sends them on their way to let it happen again. Yes, I have talked about it in bits and pieces, but never the entire story. It is time for me to share that with you all.
So here it goes…
I have been an athlete since I was a kid and I was the injured athlete for most of my life. As the injured athlete, I did was most athletes do: I wore a knee brace, I used orthotics, I smashed my shoulder with the lacrosse ball just to be able to train anything overhead. I was treating the symptoms! It wasn’t until more recently that I started figuring things out.
Growing up, I played all sports, but really focused on soccer until high school. I developed knee pain and then did what almost anyone would do – I wore a neoprene knee brace when I played.
As I got into high school, I switched to cross country and track. The knee pain was still present. What do new runners think first when dealing with pain? “It must be the shoes.” I switched to stability shoes and problem solved. Or at least it was for a couple years.
My senior year of high school, I developed a stress fracture in my foot during cross country and severe shin splints during track. The stress fracture naturally required full rest in a boot; the shin splints eventually went away after I finished the season and took some time to rest.
I ran in college for 1 year. During that time, I developed pain in my tibia during the track season and was diagnosed with a stress fracture. Once again, time to rest it.
I left the team after that year and started running half marathons and marathons with a friend. Eventually, I developed Runner’s Knee. Conveniently, I worked and ran with a PT so she gave me everything I needed to do to address the knee pain – or at least the symptoms now that I reflect back.
While in PT school I experienced a severe ankle sprain (yes, this was one of those “accidents happen” injuries) that required surgery. After surgery, the podiatrist did what almost every podiatrist does. I was given orthotics to address the pronation issues. The orthotics allowed me to get back in neutral shoes without knee pain.
Two years later while on clinicals, another stress fracture in my tibia. OK, technically it was never diagnosed, but the symptoms were present so I treated it accordingly, which meant more time off.
Shortly after Vibrams came on the market, I decided to see what they were all about – the PT in me was curious. Within a couple weeks, the knee pain I had always been experiencing when running if my foot wasn’t supported was gone. Within 9 months, I was no longer wearing my orthotics at work either. At this point, I wasn’t doing anything to actually resolve the pain or rehab anything, I just switched to 100% minimalist shoes.
THAT started my journey to learning about how important the foot and ankle is when it comes to the pain and injuries we develop as runners. Since learning this and working on foot and ankle strength and control, I have not experienced any other running related injuries.
Fast forward to several years later when I began CrossFit. In the beginning, things went well. After a year, though, I started to compete, which meant training more and doing more complex movements. Eventually, the shoulder pain and twinges began. Like most people with shoulder issues, I worked through them and used the lacrosse ball in order to continue training. Eventually, I started having a colleague needle my shoulder every 4-6 weeks just in order to perform at the level I wanted to. It worked, but I knew I was missing something.
I began looking into what else could be contributing to it and found the answer – shoulder stability and thoracic mobility. I started working on those regularly and it was a significant help. I went from having my colleague work on my shoulder every 4-6 weeks to maybe seeing her every 6 months.
The last major injury I had that took me out for several months was a knee injury. When it happened, I was doing light deadlifts and I felt a pop. I figured I tore my hamstring and began treating it accordingly. It seemed to be getting better, but after a couple weeks, I could barely do a ¼ squat and my knee started locking up when I was sitting. I knew it was something else. I found out a Baker’s cyst had ruptured (that was the pop I felt) and the pain I was feeling was the cartilage defects in my knee I didn’t know I had.
After prolotherapy and PRP for my knee, I returned to full function again. Because of that injury and understanding the cartilage defects were from my past, I began diving into biomechanics more and looking at the way in which we move our bodies that contribute to these issues we develop.
Since all those major injuries, I have not had any more running injuries and the only times I have experienced any issues with my shoulders or knees are the times I slacked off my stability and activation exercises. As long as I maintain those, everything does great!
I am currently the strongest I have ever been and performing better than I ever have.
Experiencing these injuries and being required to take time off is why I do what I do. I know athletes don’t like to be sidelined due to injuries AND I have learned that most of the injuries we deal with are preventable if we train the body properly.
That’s my story. What’s yours? Share it with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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