Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 9, 2014

WHOLE FAMILY: CrossFit injury won’t become my Achilles heal


Goshen News

---- — One might think I’m eating a little crow. Or my hat, shoe, dirt or simply just my words. I’m not, really, but here’s why one might think so.

In a more edgy tone than normal, last column I gushed about CrossFit and wrote this: “CrossFit sometimes finds itself in the center of controversy. It’s too hard; it’s dangerous; it’s causing people to get sick or injured. Rubbish. Like everything else, don’t believe the headlines alone. Bad coaching injures people; stupid people injure themselves. The truth is CrossFit enjoys much more successes than failures, and sports like football and soccer cause more injuries per player.”

Well.

The morning before the column ran, I was injured while jumping rope in a CrossFit competition. On my third jump, the one where I was bringing the rope under me twice — called a “double-under” — I felt an enormous POP. Then I came down and felt an odd, tingly, spongy feeling in my foot. For a second, I had no idea what happened. I wondered what had been thrown at me. Turns out, the tendon in my heel — termed the “Achilles” tendon — had snapped. Just snapped. It felt as if my foot were dangling, which, in some ways, it is.

After about 48 hours of icing and resting my calf, I saw two doctors who confirmed — for a total of $230 — what I already knew. The tendon, more accurately called the “calcaneus” tendon, is snapped, and the best way to repair it is surgically.

I hate surgery; it’s so gruesome and impersonal and rough and just, well, UNNATURAL. But I decided on surgery, as that’s really the best way to put the tendon back together and help ensure it stays that way. Think two ends of a thick rubber band reunited by sutures. On Tuesday, I’ll be put under and fixed up.

“Aha!” someone said. “It’s that CrossFit! See, it IS dangerous.” Sigh. Even with a foot dangling, I stand by my statement that CrossFit is not dangerous. That bad coaching or stupid people cause injuries. Of course that begs, “Which is it for you, Steph? Bad coaching or being stupid?” Neither. In my snarkiness, I forgot to mention that injuries, particularly this one, sometimes JUST HAPPEN.

And, as my children would tell you, I should not have used the word “stupid.”

I was jumping rope, something I occasionally do in my back yard on the cement slab where the corn crib used to stand, something I did in the schoolyard — “double Dutch,” even — when I was 11 years old. Something many athletes and gaggles of children do every day.

Last summer I hiked with my family in a beautiful state park, even jumping from boulder to boulder when we happened on some really cool rocks. This tendon could have snapped then.

So the problem is not CrossFit. In fact, this injury is much more likely to happen to men who play basketball or baseball or who sprint, and I don’t hear outcry about basketball or baseball or running.

I am fit and fairly supple; I wasn’t doing anything crazy. It just snapped.

However.

It would be foolish of me to not analyze fully and see what I can learn. I might, very well, need to think more thoroughly about my aging body and how to protect it. My husband, 10 years my senior at a more-salt-than-pepper 52, says, “You only have so many movements left in life. Make each one count.”

Maybe, somewhere along the “stupid” spectrum, I should not be jumping? I’m willing to consider that. Willing to drop high-impact moves, of which there are very few in CrossFit anyway.

But everything is risky. Walking on a sidewalk is risky. Nothing, absolutely nothing, is risk-free. You can sit on your couch in bubble wrap, but then you risk dying from problems related to inactivity and bubble wrap.

In general in life, you assess risks and benefits, you make decisions and then, in some ways, you just take your chances. By CrossFitting, I lost 35 pounds, have become more fit than ever and have gained many useful life skills.

There have been many benefits.

CrossFit definitely will not now be my enemy. It will continue to be a close friend, an important part of recovery. I’m to bear no weight on my right leg for six weeks. Six weeks! Well, I have a lot more muscles in my body than just those in my right leg. And for the right leg to get better, I’ll need to keep the other muscles strong.

One of the best things about this sport is its adaptability to nearly anyone. People with cerebral palsy, missing limbs, paralysis? They all CrossFit. Doc says I’ll need physical therapy. Well, I have it lined up already.

So I was mouthy about CrossFit, and now I’m sitting at home with my leg propped on a chair downing Tylenol and freaking out about being intubated during surgery. Sigh.

But it ain’t CrossFit’s fault, and I’m eating a diet consistent with good healing — not eating no crow.

Goshen News columnist Stephanie Price is a wife, mother, teacher, childbirth educator, midwife’s assistant and nursing student from Elkhart. Contact her at wholefamily@goshennews.com, 269-641-7249 or on Facebook at the page “Whole Family Column by Steph Price.”