Here’s my response to @thedavecastro ‘s Instagram contest “Fittest in ______”. Actually this picture was taken as we were driving away from the hospital. Gotta keep your sense of humor right? Honestly though, it was a very tough decision to sit the 2015 season out. Rather than just ramble about it I’ll give a very summarized background on my left ankle’s medical history and then my decision making process on taking a year off of competing. If medical stuff bores you just skip 3 or 4 pictures down…
1995 – Halloween night – Talayna is trying to learn a 2 1/2 twist on the floor and lands while still twisting, jarring her ankle. Her Dr. tells her it’s sprained so she tapes it up after a few weeks and grits through the gymnastics and track and field season. Ok enough 3rd person, I saw a podiatrist in April and he took another x-ray and found a big chip off of the back of my heel. I asked him if I could finish the track season (because who wouldn’t?) and he confusingly said, “I don’t see why not”. I had my first L foot surgery at 14 that year after finishing the track season and it was an instant fix.
This was about 1995… gotta love flashbacks!
1999 – While running track in college I had a stress fracture on the inside of the left foot. They gave me a boot for 4 weeks and a bone stimulator to wear. Miraculously all of the boney spurs I had later were in the exact location where I wore the bone stimulator. Maybe the freakin’ thing did too much?! The stress fracture healed too though.
Here I go incriminating myself with more flashbacks!
2012 – The ankle got very inflamed and would painfully impinge anytime I dipped for a jerk or tried to squat knees in front of my toes. My leg would literally give out if I tried a pistol, it just wouldn’t do it. I started using Voltarin Gel 10 days out from the Games and it was like a miracle. Pain gone and go time.
Here’s a good example of me not wanting my knees to go in front of my toes. Not sure the ankle caused this, but it sure doesn’t help these impeccable squat mechanics!
2013 – Fed up with the ankle acting up at the wrong time I had arthroscopic surgery in Sept. after the Games to clean out the bone spurs. It felt better for a few months, but gradually got worse again when I started running and doing double-unders. I think I just figured it was my poor mechanics or something and got used to ignoring it and wearing olympic lifting shoes to do everything but run.
2014 – The left ankle got very sore at the Games because I had to rely on it so much due to a right quad injury. I tried getting a PRP injection under ultrasound in December, hoping that it was just some soft tissue causing the pain at this point. On the Dr.’s screen we could watch him poking his needle around as he found a boney ossicle and was quite entertained when he could move it. He said “I think there’s a fragment in there!” My first thought was, you’ve got to be kidding me… I don’t want another surgery. We tried treating it with dry needling and it really helped, but not enough that 200 double-unders didn’t make it sore to walk the next day.
Me smiling after The Triples workout at The Games, not because I was happy to do it, but because I was happy I’d done it! Meaning it was over… lol
I’ll insert my own personal cliff note here because it’s pertinent. My R quad fully healed after the Games, but still felt awkward at times and I even had to stop squatting for a month in November again because of it. After really analyzing my movement I realized when I descended in a squat the angle at which my left heel would raise off the ground and the ankle would painfully impinge was the same angle my right quad would hurt. Also my hips were actually shifting towards the right side to get my weight off of the left ankle. After thousands of reps doing this, my right tire (the quad) just blew and said no more. Funny how everything is so connected!
Now onto my decision making process! My mind seems to work well with Pros and Cons lists so I’ll run you through my list of them in deciding whether to compete in the 2015 Season.
Con: I’ll have to sit back and watch everyone else compete and that’s going to sting.
Pro: I did that in 2011. It stung really bad. I never would have worked as hard in 2012 or did as well as I did at the Games if I hadn’t been made to watch the 2011 Games in person… from the stands.
Con: The quad is feeling better and I can still get my numbers up by Regionals.
Pro: If I keep doing my squats favoring the left ankle my body may not even make it to Regionals healthy.
Con: I could probably make it through another year and then get the surgery done.
Pro: If I sit out the year I can get the ankle fixed now and not be in a rush to recover this time.
Con: Everyone keeps getting better and if I take a year off I’ll just get left behind.
Pro: From watching athletes who were at the top and took a year off (Annie, Sam, Matt Chan) they only came back stronger and better than before, and podiumed (I think I just put some pressure on Chan).
Con: If I continue to compete with pain I will be 80% of capacity and at best maintain or plateau the next few years, but never get better again.
Pro: If I bite the bullet now, take a year to focus all of my energies on fixing movement patterns, follow a progressive strength program without worrying about being in top competition shape, and move pain free again, I can have future years competing at more than my current to date 100% and try to be at the top of the game instead of just playing it.
And that last one was the decider…
Sometimes it’s hard to do the smart thing, but I was 90% sure that I was. After surgery my Dr. told me “there was a lot going on in there” and he took out a 1.5cm fragment of bone from the medial ankle. Then I was 100% sure. No wonder the dang thing hurt! I’m super excited from a nerdy Physical Therapy standpoint to see how much dorsiflexion I can get now too!
Another pro this year is I’ll get to focus more on my continuing education for Physical Therapy. Get fully dry needling certified, and play physical therapist to one of my favorite athletes during the Games season this year. You may have heard of her, she’s kinda good at exercise.
My boss also said something that sort of stuck with me about taking a year off. His only worry was that I wouldn’t have the drive to come back. My only response to this is…