If you asked me 12 years ago if I would be a Physical Therapist today I would have laughed in your face. At 34 years old today, my lens at 22 was curious with the world and what this life had to offer. Before I get too philosophical, lets dive into my injury history.
Soccer is and was my favorite sport in the world. Yes, I know I am primarily a snowboarding based Physical Therapist/ Personal Trainer but without a doubt, soccer wins. It is a beautiful game filled with complexities, passion, diversity, and aggression. You cannot win simply from being the best player on the field, it requires a team to work as a unit. I was and am a soccer junkie starting when I was five years old and jumping immediately onto a competitive traveling team at 10 years old. Practice twice per week and tournaments on the weekends was my life for a decade.
I remember the day like it was yesterday… I had just turned 14 years old and was playing in a summer soccer tournament. It was ordinary like any other and my coach put me on the field as a striker. Now, I normally play midfield or defense so this was a unique position. Four minutes into the game I sprint diagonally across the field and see the ball being passed to me overhead. A split second later, my life would change forever. As I turned to chase the ball, the opponents goalkeeper had run out of his box only to tackle me, cleats up, without any chance of bracing myself. My left leg was planted, ready to jump but it was too late. His cleat hit the side of shin with all my weight planted and I proceeded to flip over the goalkeeper. With what felt like seconds, I assessed the situation as a lay there on the ground immediately feeling a disassociation of the lower half of my left leg. As the referee asked me if “everything is ok” I responded with, “my leg is broken!” Its a sensation that you can only truly understand until you go through it yourself. My adrenaline was pumping and shock had set in. The coaches and parents ran over to pick me up off the field and as soon as they picked me up, the blood pressure moved down my leg sending me into delirium, screaming at the top my lungs. Once my sock was removed, it was obvious the bones were nearly piercing out of my skin and the lower half of shin was nearly parallel. As they calmed my breathing, the paramedics injected morphine into my system, allowing me to feel a sense of calm through the chaos.
The next two weeks of my life was a whirlwind of hospital beds, improper healing of my leg, and talks of surgery. I remember the orthopedic surgeon walking in after 3 failed castings telling my parents that if I did not undergo surgery immediately, my leg would not heal properly and surgery would be out of the question. After a successful surgery, the next 6 months of my life were further fueled with challenges. Not only did I have to start my freshman year of high school in a cast, I missed my soccer season. The next mishap that occurred was a nerve pain I can only describe as non-stop tingling in my foot/ leg. Imagine your foot falls asleep but it does not go away. There is no sleeping and your world is consumed by the bugs crawling across your extremity. We were finally able to get it under control but I started to develop compartment syndrome. If you do not know what this is, imagine feeling a pressure in your leg so painful it makes you squirm and does not diminish. Left unchecked, those with compartment syndrome often have to have their limbs amputated. After poking and prodding, the pressure began to lessen and I was finally on my way to healing.
So, now that you know the backstory, why did I choose physical therapy? I remember waking up after my surgery feeling like my leg was going to fall off and like I was never going to walk again. It was the physical therapist and my father that gave me the confidence to start with one step, then two, then three and so on. I attended my PT session religiously going from basic movements, aquatic therapy, strengthening, and eventually powerful cutting. I eventually made it back to playing soccer and continue to play today. I see patients from day one of surgery to the point of walking/ running/ sprinting out of the clinic. It always brings me back to my situation and the flood of feelings, doubt, and uncertainty that I had to undergo. Injury may be one of the most challenging moments of anyones life. It is a vulnerability and identity that is stripped from you in an instant. My job as a PT is to give you back the confidence that you may be questioning and guide you back to a better version of yourself.
I chose this career to create and develop those relationships. I love the human body and understand what it is capable of. This is why I preach movement and injury prevention. It does not have to be fancy, just move your body any way you feel. Go for a walk by yourself or with your partner. Try light resistance training anyway you know how. Join a club for something that you have always wanted to try. Our bodies and health are a gift. We are lucky if we have 60 years of moving freely so why not take advantage of it? I talk to many of my patients in their 80’s/90’s and most of them miss going for hikes, camping, running, and moving freely without the fear of falling!
So, you have to ask yourself, how are you going to move your body today?
Aspiring professional soccer player and Doctor of Physical Therapy. I do not believe one exercise mode is superior to another. They all provide their own strengths and weaknesses.
While a manual hands-on approach is appropriate at times, I prefer to educate the patient, provide them the tools and deliver the long term solution they are seeking.
If I am not in the office, you can find me on the mountain.
Keep on growing.
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