Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Reckoning, or How My Body Betrayed Me

On March 2nd, I tore my achilles tendon playing ball. Short story shorter: loose ball, jump, land, POP. I was in the emergency room within an hour, where it took them about ten seconds to tell me that yep, I'd torn it. (The doctor-types call it a "rupture," which makes it sound like my leg had an earthquake.)

This is the worst injury I've ever had. I was in surgery six days after the injury, spent about four weeks in a cast and on crutches, and am now in the midst of a long recovery period. I won't run again until June, and can't play basketball until August-ish. When I tell people what happened to me, their initial reaction is typically something like, "Ouch. That must have really hurt." Well yeah, it did really hurt, but to be honest, the physical pain of the injury was much less severe than most ankle sprains. The psychological pain of it, both during and after, was the bigger issue for me.

More after the jump...

I knew what happened as soon as I felt the pop. When I grabbed my achilles, it felt like jelly. When I tried to stand up, it felt like I had a heel lift in my shoe--or like I was standing on tippy-toes. That messed me up. It's terrible to be fully aware of a such a serious bodily malfunction. I mean, one second I'm running and jumping, and the next I'm sitting on the floor, broken.

The period following surgery was really hard. Being on crutches sucks in so many ways. I had to think about everywhere I was going. Did I really need that banana from the kitchen? In addition, being on crutches makes it impossible to carry anything. If I needed a book from the study, I had to strap on my backpack, crutch to the study, put the book in the backpack, and crutch back to wherever I was. And don't even get me started about going up and down stairs.

Now, as I recover and can imagine a day when I'll play ball again, I'm having to seriously contemplate my future relationship with the game. I'm 32 right now, and my skills were already in decline before the injury, but this basically pushes me off the cliff of suckitude.

If you know me, you know that I am addicted to basketball and I regularly need to do hoops-related stuff to stay sane. I was able to start shooting free throws and do some non-mobile dribbling drills this past weekend, which felt great, like getting together with an old friend. The big question is of course: How good can I ever be again? The initial evidence has been unsettling. At the court this weekend, I played HORSE with a sorta-developmentally disabled kid. He beat me one game out of three.


Anonymous said...


I ruptured (fully tore) my achilles tendon playing basketball on 02/08/2008.

After the surgery, I googled to find other people who are recovering from their achilles injury as well, and I found lots of blogs here and there, including yours.

It’s been helpful reading about other people’s experiences with the same injury, especially those further along on the road to recovery. It’s good to know that I am not the only one making sure to keep my leg elevated, using a shower chair, and limping around on crutches.

I’ve created a community site so that people who injure their achilles tendon can create their own blogs and share their experiences as they progress toward full recovery.

My AchillesBlog is:

You can create your own there too. Please give it a try and join the Achilles community. I am constantly working on the site, so any feedback will be great.

I’ve also been gathering and posting a list of external blogs related to achilles injury there, as well as other useful resources. If you find some other good links, feel free to email them to me, and I’ll add to the list.


Anonymous said...

Jeff, (I am posting this both here and on your newest post since I don't know if you'll read this post again.)

Thanks for your comment. I've briefly spoken to people who are at about 1 1/2 year mark, and they say they still seeing improvement even after all that time, so I think it'll continually get better with time and physical therapy.

Can you tell us more about your rehabilitation protocol and your experiences with physical therapy?

Many of us are only a few months into the recovery, and I think it'll help us a lot if you could share your experiences with us. Thanks!