Memories of a sports injury

Shortly after 8pm Monday night, it started snowing pretty briskly. It snowed on and off during the night, and we were treated to a long, semi-sleepless night of parking lot plowing noise. All told, we probably got four or five inches of snow.

(From what I had been able to tell from the weather reports on the internet – which seem to be less informative than those on the radio or in the local newspaper – it wasn’t supposed to start snowing until Tuesday, but what’s done is done.)

Fast-forward to Tuesday afternoon – I decided to clean off the cars before the sun went down. I’m glad I did.

While temperatures have been topping out in the 20s lately, on Tuesday they got up into the mid-30s. In addition, freezing rain on top of the snow created a very dense mixture, particularly on the surface. Here are some pictures to illustrate what I mean:

(Click to enlarge for more detail)

This photo gives an indication of what the freezing rain has done to the snow.

I was able to push more than half of the snow off my car in one huge chunk. I paused, though, to snap this pic. 🙂

As I said, I’m glad that I cleaned our cars off – it would be a real pain to scrape all of this off in the morning if it had frozen onto the windshield and windows overnight.

* * * * *

Walking around the cars with my brush-scraper, my feet slipped on the uneven snow several times. This reminded me of an injury that I got back in high school as a direct result of this type of snow surface.

In March of each year, we began training as a team for the track and field season. We started off with some very basic conditioning over the first few weeks: basically, warm-ups, long runs, and weight-lifting. I was in decent shape, and excited for my junior season.

Soon after we began training, we had a fairly major snowstorm that left over a foot of snow on the ground. It lasted for more than a day, and came in waves: it snowed, then it stopped, then it got colder overnight and re-froze, snowed some more, and then became bitterly cold and very windy the next day. This sequence of events made for a snow surface that consisted of about two inches of fluff on top of an inch of ice, which lay on top of about a foot of soft snow.

Early in the preseason, our track team got our conditioning in on a mostly unused road whenever our old cinder track was unfit for practice. After school, soon after this storm, we went over to run our “laps,” only to find that the road hadn’t been plowed at all. I’m not sure why, but we held our practice there anyway.

It was rough. Sometimes, we’d take a step and the top layer of icy snow would hold our weight. At other times, we’d put our feet down and there would be a delayed-break, where our feet would stop momentarily on the surface before plunging through to the road.

This is kind of what the snow looked like after I stepped in it during track practice that day. Except that it was about a foot deeper.

As I’m sure you can imagine, this is a dangerous way to try to run five miles or so.

However, at the time we were all gung-ho about being great in spite of the bad weather, and not letting other teams get ahead of us in their training schedules. So we struggled our way down the road, up the hill, back down, etc.

Somewhere along the way, my left foot managed to land wrong. I suffered a partial lateral meniscus tear, which is torn cartilage on the outside of the knee joint. In athletes, it’s generally caused by a twisting of the joint. All of us were ripe for this type of injury that day, given the road surface conditions.

The injury didn’t require surgery, and, after doing a month of physical therapy, I was able to run again for a little while that season (until I suffered a season-ending stress fracture in my foot that May – but that’s a story for another day). Thankfully, the knee injury hasn’t bothered me much since, even though I’m twice the age that I was when it happened. However, the snowy-icy conditions reminded me of it today… reminded me how fragile our bodies can be, even when they are in good shape.

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2 Comments on “Memories of a sports injury”

  1. Andrew says:

    I have to say, as a Canadian living in a usually snowy city, I’ve been really jealous of all of the snow you Americans are getting this year. I actually miss having massive piles of the stuff to deal with – it’s part of my life. (I also worry for farmers who rely on the run-off from the melt in the spring…)

    On the topic of sports injuries, I’ve had a few but only one gives me lasting pain – a mildly separated shoulder that I got in my second season of ultimate frisbee, and stupidly never let heal 100% before resuming play. (That injury taught me how NOT to lay out … ouch)

    • Russ says:

      Ouch! a separated shoulder… I’m already wincing!

      I grew up an hour or so south of Buffalo, and so I’m (still) used to getting a lot more snow than we have gotten these past couple of years. And as much as it’s snowed around the country, last winter was much more severe here in PA, at least to date.


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