Factual Friday Shoulder Injuries
To answer your questions, yes I have had injuries but nothing I haven’t overcome. My most serious was my sophomore year of high school. The injury actually sparked a lot of other problems that I still deal with (not so regularly).
Here is the paper I wrote for human psychology that got me the recommendation needed to get into sports psychology. I think it is a good opener to my shoulder injury. I ended up giving three speeches to various groups at my college, all relating to this paper. I honestly think this is one of my proudest pieces of work from my schooling. It wasn’t written to discuss my shoulder injury but rather to discuss how a tramatic incident led to my eating disorder. Before this paper, I had told not a single soul at college about my high school problems, let alone my swim team.
During my four years of high school, I swam competitively. Our swim team was a much bigger team and sport than in many other areas, and many people often attended our meets. This was only the root of my problem. The first year and a half of high school were essentially my “golden years.” I had a great set of friends that I could trust anything with, I was one of the top swimmers in the state, and I somehow also managed to be in the top of my class. There was nothing in the world that I would want to change even if you had asked me.
That all changed, however, during my sophomore year of high school at our big high school regional meet. Regionals was a collection of about 32 swim teams, all co-ed in the south east area of my state. I had already made state cuts in my two favorite events, the 500 and 200 freestyle. The entire season, however, I had been training for another event, the 100 butterfly. I had made the cuts I needed, I just wanted to win the race. I remember even joking with a close friend of mine, that I should have just stayed home and slept because I was still going to states. The one minute I was in the pool for that race, changed my life forever.
It was obvious that I had a passion that not many other athletes shared on my team because I swam both club and varsity high school. There were days that I was in the pool five hours along with going to school. I would wake up at 5:30, and swim from 6-8 with my club team. After school I would swim again with my club team from 4:30-6:30 and then if there was a mandatory high school practice, I would be forced to also go to high school practice from 7:30-9. Looking back, I wonder how during that period of time, my body managed to keep up with such a rigorous practice schedule.
Regionals was the meet I had been looking forward to all season. It was the meet I could capture three consecutive races. Before the 100 yard butterfly, I was nervous. I had swum this event a thousand times in dual meets or in club meets. I had swum hundreds at almost every single practice but I always got nervous before my events. Often jumping around to keep my body warm while behind the blocks. I was seeded first today, which made me feel even more nervous, knowing my team needed this event to clinch winning regional’s and having a chance to win states-but I was ready. All my training had come down to this single moment. The timer called take your mark and I bent down and heard the whistle go off. Diving in, all I could feel was the cold water against my smooth skin. The first half of the event, I was over a body length ahead from what I could tell. Butterfly is tricky to see your opponents. You can only see your opponents at each length of the pool. Then it hit me. It was like a thousand sharp needles ripping at my shoulders. It was clear in the pool something was wrong in lane four. My shoulders were bright red and bruises were starting to form all over them. My swimming career that I had known and loved was over for the time being.
I went back to school a few days later, and everyone knew about it. They asked to see my shoulders and I obliged unwillingly. I had trained so hard for that single minute of my life and this was certainly not the aftermath I had predicted. It was not how I imagined I would be a week away from state swim meet. My life began to spiral downhill. I had nothing to do. Often times, I would wake up at six am and cry because I was not able to swim. I became depressed and did not think I had any control over my life. I had always been a fairly thin female and food became more source of comfort. If I could not control much in my life, I could at least control what went into my body. I began to obsess over everything I ate. Since I couldn’t swim, I began doing exercises that did not have to do swimming and shoulders. I biked and did many different fitness classes every day. It showed and-I begin to lose a lot of weight. At my thinnest, I was 5 feet and 8 inches at 105 pounds. It is different though, because I had a lot of muscle left. I had even less body fat than the average female at 105 pounds.
My swim coach and I had been very close. He had begun to notice the changes that were going on, and even though I did not swim, I saw him daily. He sat me down one day and had one of the most important talks, I had ever had and that I will ever have. Afterwards, he talked to me about seeing a dietician. Although I was at first unwilling, I still wanted to swim the next season so I obliged. He would not even allow me into the pool until I had gained weight. As the months continued I found out, much of my muscle from swimming had been lost due to my extreme dieting. My body was in such an unhealthy state and it took both my junior and senior year of high school to regain the weight I had lost. I have fully recovered since the incident, however, reading about young females with the same problems I do still fully upsets me and brings back painful memories.
After the regional meet in February, I did not even hop into a pool until September. I did not do any full swimming except at a few meets my entire junior year. I kicked for almost every single practice. I begged my coach to even allow me to get into the pool at practice and kicking was my only option.
Obviously swimming isn’t as hard on the joints and a lot of people get into swimming while they are injured. However, on a competitive level (such as college or even high school), it is more common to find people who have had injuries than who haven’t.
My injury was caused by overtraining. Yes, it happened within a minute of my life, but everything I did led up to it. It was just waiting for that one time to go. I gave it that opportunity.
My overtraining led to shoulder impingement, more commonly known as tendinitis. I swam at least and by no means a minimum of 4000 yards of butterfly almost every single day. I was training butterfly, so that’s what I swam. Between two practices of about 6000 yards each, 4000 doesn’t seem too much. But thinking about it, that is over 2 miles of just butterfly every single day.
My injury certainly overtook me cognitively. I never realized how much I loved and relied on swimming. Swimming gave me so much motivation and so much hope. When my shoulder tore during my race, it also tore my dreams of ever swimming division 1. That probably sounds rather depressing, and at the time it was.
But it all honesty, I’m glad everything in my life happened the way it did.
I’m still living the dream.
Feel free to ask anything else for next week (or I’ll just reply in email.)