Years ago, I read an article about Denver Bronco linebacker Bill Romanowski. To perform at the top in the NFL, he had a personal masseuse, doctor, dietitian, cook, and trainer (who, in turned out, injected him with human growth hormone, steroids and other banned drugs) to keep his body strong and accelerate his recovery after bruising Sunday games.
I happened to read this article about the time I was going to have my first knee surgery. When I went in for a visit prior to the surgery, I had asked the orthopaedic doc if there was some other alternative to removing part of my medial meniscus, the cartilage that keeps your leg bones separated so the don't grind and provides a cushion. I told him I'd seen an article somewhere that they were growing cartilage then successfully placing it back in the athlete's knee. He got a vague smile on his face and nodded. "Yes, there are some things we might be able to try if you were an elite athlete," he said, "but you're not."
Unless you are in extreme pain and need immediate medical attention, most of us are left to our own wits to figure out how to rehab an athletic injury. When I pulled up lame two weeks ago with a calf pull, threatening my participation in the Bolder Boulder, I was fortunate to have family, friends, and colleagues with all expertise needed to get me rehabed quickly (not easy if the patient is an un-young).
My virtual rehab team formed as soon as I got home after aborting the run during which I injured myself, and my wife suggested I get ice on the site of the pain. I followed her advice then, and for the next couple of days, and that helped keep the pain down.
Then my daughter, who's a nurse and runner, emailed to instruct me to rest it so it would have a chance to heal. It was good advice, but asking a TOJ to rest is like asking a smoker not to smoke. I did stay off it for two days, then tried to get out for a short run, but stopped immediately when the pain increased. She was right-- it did need more rest. Lesson learned. I stopped running.
Then I asked a family practice doc, who's a runner and colleague, what he thought I could do. I was going through exercise withdrawal. He agreed a rest from running was a good idea, but gave me some exercises to do slowly to strengthen the muscles involved in the injury, which I did, and within days could detect an improvement in my range of motion and less pain.
A few days later, I ran into a friend who's a physical therapist, and asked her opinion. I wasn't sure whether the Achilles tendon or calf was the problem because I'd noticed the pain seemed to move a little lower at times. She asked me to take a few steps, then advised me to not run at all until I could walk without limping. She advised me to keep doing what the family doc/runner suggested and also ride my bike to both maintain my cardio-endurance and work the calf in a less stressful way.
Finally, a friend who's a Clydesdale triathlete heard I've been gimpy and also sent an email. He had a serious Achilles tendon injury that put him off his feet under doctor's orders for a month. He told me to stay off that leg, period. Total rest or risk long term injury. When I told him that might be hard to do being a TOJ because I wanted to run the Bolder Boulder and needed to do some preparation, he asked me what starting wave I was in. Turns out he's two waves behind me because it's the one time of the year he runs with his wife. He told me he'd catch me, then tackle me and drag me over to one of the lawn parties that are going on along the course.
Today I ran five miles, slower than I usually do, but fast enough to get a nice workout. My calf felt pretty good, even when I went up the hill where I pulled it. Mostly heeding my rehab team's advice, I haven't run much in the past two weeks. I won't be peaking for this race, but that's okay. I think I'll be able to do it.
I'll either make it into Folsom Stadium or my Clydesdale triathlete friend will catch me and drag me to a party along the course. I told him if he does that, he has to pick a party serving a good dark beer. Either way, I win.