The shoulder is one of the most diverse yet unstable joints in the human body. Although it has a range of 360 degrees doesn’t mean we should always take it there. Being a highly competitive wrestler, I hold myself to a higher standard of training and pain tolerance. I naturally feel the same way towards my family (AKA my teammates) in regards to the standard of expectation.
Early October 2015, I was preparing for the Olympic Trials for Men’s Freestyle Wrestling in December. At a tournament, I found myself extended with my arm significantly higher than the rest of my body with another 170lb man on top of it. The popping and grinding sounds were excrutiating, yet I didn’t feel tremendous pain. Just numbness. Fast forward after trials, a similar situation occurred except my teammate was the one on top of my extended shoulder. Similar story, similar sounds. This time I felt a lot worse. I physically couldn’t move my arm. It was then I decided to take some time off to heal.
Fast forward a few weeks, no change. After an MRI, surgeons suggested a small problem but said they could fix it. They were pressing for simple rehab but suggested that this would be the best course. I decided it was time to get it fixed. After waking up 2.5 hours later (the surgery was scheduled for an hour) I awoke to the surgeon. She explained it was way worse than expected. My rotator cuff was completely torn, my labrum was significantly torn, the bicep was hanging by a thread and my humerus (arm bone) had a fracture on the head. She said surgery wasn’t an option but a necessity. I was disheartened. I was hoping to be back by September but she predicted not until 2017.
I sit here writing now just past the 5 month mark. Iron Athletics Canada has taken off and I get to be around people who have or desire to have a passion in training. As for me, I haven’t changed. My goals are still the same and my drive to return is stronger than ever. I am fully certified and extremely knowledgeable in the fields of human anatomy and physiology. As knowledgeable as I am, I’m even more stubborn. More often than not, that stubbornness that demands intensity results in poor decisions, such as trying to lift a weight using my operated arm. I’ve pushed myself past even what I know to be much (AKA stupid) and suffered with a sore shoulder. I deserved it. Believe it or not, the human body is incredible in telling us what it needs. Hungry? Your stomach hurts. Thirsty? Your mouth goes dry. Your body can take care of you IF you let it.
As I try to lift heavier or do more substantial things, I advise those going through a similar situation to LISTEN! That’s right. Take the time off. Do what the surgeon says and more importantly what your BODY says. It’s frustrating yes, but it should only have to be done once. To try and push a butchered tendon that’s healing past it’s current potential is foolish and will result in a greater length of return. It’s tough I know, but you begin to become creative. Yes your upper body atrophies, but you can still have great leg power or cardio! Take this time to reflect. Reflect on your goals, your drive and your weaknesses. I truly believe that the greatest athletes can rise from devastating injuries. They don’t give up, they adapt. I set myself to believe in a higher standard. The standard of expectation. It can still be met while recovering, just in a different way.
In closing, I say to anyone recovering from an injury or surgery to do one thing. Check your pride, ego and weight shoes at the desk. Open your ears and LISTEN to your surgeon. Do it once, do it right, come back with an edge. When you do, it’ll be nothing but passion and grit. That’s Training Iron Style.