The story of a sports injury

Here’s the trivial sort of thing that happens to me all the time. I play in a pick-up soccer game every Sunday. I’m one of the worst players on the field, but what the heck, it’s fun and it’s good exercise.

This game is notorious for the injuries it produces. In fact, shortly after I started playing, over five years ago, I got an injury that put me out of the game for nearly a year. In that game, I was chasing after a ball, trying to stop it from going out of bounds. Instead of kicking it backwards with my heel, as I was trying to do, I ended up stepping on the ball and rolling my foot farther than it’s supposed to go (think “pointing your toes too far”). That strained the tendon on the top of my ankle, and that was that. No soccer for a year.

It’s actually still a little painful to kick the ball because of that injury, but I still play, and I haven’t had any serious mishaps since then. Yesterday, I was sure my time had finally come. With 5 minutes left in the game, I was in front of the goal on offense. A ball came sailing across the field towards me, chest-high. With my right foot (yes, the same one I had injured before), I attempted to redirect the ball into the goal. I was a little surprised, because I actually managed to reach it. Unfortunately, a defender reached it at the same time I did, and the ball flew about 5 feet wide of its target. Even worse, his heel slammed into my shin just above my bad ankle. It felt as if I had aggravated that same old injury. Actually, it felt worse.

“That’s it for me,” I said (it turned out, not loud enough), and I limped off the field. But play resumed before I could get to the sideline, and before I knew it, someone had passed me the ball. It was tempting to try to play it, but I decided to let it roll by. My teammates screamed at me. “I’m leaving the game,” I shouted back. Apparently they hadn’t realized I was injured.

When I got to the sideline, I took a look at my leg. There were four bruises, neatly arranged in a rectangle just above my ankle — a perfect impression of the defender’s cleats. Maybe this wasn’t as bad as I thought. In fact, as I moved my foot around, I realized it wasn’t bad at all. Yes, I’d be sore, and yes, it’d be a nasty bruise that would hang around for a while, but I’d probably even be fine for my Monday morning run.

And I was. I went for the usual short run today, and the shin felt fine. In fact, the rest of my body was sorer, just from the usual wear-and-tear of the game.

That’s, unfortunately, the world I live in as a forty-year-old trying to stay active. As I get older, it’s going to take longer and longer for me to recover from injuries like this. At a certain point, I won’t be able to play soccer at all any more. Then I won’t be able to run, won’t be able to ski, might be reduced to going for walks and / or playing golf.

The goal now is to push those dates as far back as possible. They’ll come someday. I hope I’ll be ready for them when they do.

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