The Good News and the Bad News Regarding My Injury

Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Posted in category Just Stuff

This is the story of an injury, and my 15-month journey to figure out, piece-by-piece, what in the hell I did to myself. I am writing this injury chronicle because I think some folks can relate, and also, they may find my story just a wee bit interesting.

For the last fifteen months, I have endured the fallout – health issues – resulting from a blunt force injury. This occurred on Thanksgiving weekend in 2010. I was playing walleyball – an activity I love – and when I play this game I only play at one speed, and that is full speed ahead. The group I was playing with on this particular day was a very active and hardcore group of players – just how I like it.

Later in the game, I ended up with a (minor) concussion, but prior to that, something much worse happened. I went up high to block a shot, and, since I am so damn short I went up real high, at the net, to challenge the spike. I have a great vertical leap, so I got up high enough to block the shot, but the force of the ball, and blocking it, pushed me backwards to the point where my feet were no longer underneath my body. I landed squarely on my tailbone and almost knocked the lights out.

I shook it off after a few minutes and continued to play, and later, I ended up knocked on my head, lights almost out (again), leading to a minor concussion. For a few days I felt pretty crappy, and I didn’t do a whole lot other than sit around. About one week later I began to feel a little more zippy, and thus I ventured into the gym. Toward the end of my workout I started warming up with my deadlifts, starting at 135 lbs and moving upward a few plates at a time. I then lifted about 185, which is still pretty easy for me, and as I stood up during my lift, a massive tearing sound roared through my left hamstring, from top to bottom. I tore that puppy pretty good. A later visit to a doctor revealed why I tore the hamstring: my original injury from the walleyball incident had dislocated my pelvis and tailbone. So I was lifting heavy weights with an out-of-whack structure, and I didn’t know it at that time. Things get even more bizarre.

I was seeing my chiropractor, trying to get the pelvis and tailbone back into place. I April of 2011, I was doing some moderate, functional core work, and I felt a ZIP in my lower back, in the sacroiliac area. A few days later, inflammation raged, and I got very sick with flu-like symptoms, but I did not have the flu. My boss tried to send me home, but I refused, and I rode out a difficult day at work. The lower back area felt like it was trashed. An x-ray, though it does not show much, hinted that I had “sprained” my sacroiliac joint, with indications that the joint had a slight “twist” to it.

Fast forward to the August-September period of 2011, where my body began to shut down as I experienced extreme stiffness, massive pain, limping on my left leg, and I had no ability to bend over. While I was typically deadlifting 290 pounds off of a short rack, and 255 pounds off of the floor, doing a deadlift of 175 pounds became a major chore for me. Soon I was down to deadlifting between 95 – 135 pounds. Pathetic, I know. My pelvis/lower back area felt like my bones and muscles had been replaced with a piece of plywood. I began to experience this bizarre pain that seemed to start from my lower back, driving down into my left hip, thigh, and both glutes.

My holistic physician directed me to the Craniosacral Institute of Michigan, as an alternative to traditional – and often useless – physical therapy. Something told me that this injury was unique, and traditional therapy would not work. Unfortunately, I had an HMO at the time (managed care plan). I had this plan because I had already “dropped out” of the system and I had become a patient at a cash-based holistic center. I had the HMO only for the purpose of a catastrophe, and that move saved me about $88/month. I was barely using traditional medical care coverage at all, until the injury. The Craniosacral Institute was not in my HMO network, so I was paying $600+ per month out-of-pocket for the physical therapy. After 5-6 weeks, I quit, because it just wasn’t working.

I had to endure pain throughout the latter half of 2011, and on January 1, 2012, I enrolled in a PPO plan that allowed me to direct my own medical care. The HMO was a nightmare, it gave me no options, and my PCP (Primary Care Physician) had only one option allowable, and that was to send me to eight weeks of very traditional physical therapy – which I knew would not work. So I waited until January to address the larger issues.

Fast forward again. In January, I began to see a specialist in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Considering how much I usually dislike doctors, I like this guy. He is a D.O., and his approach and management of the issue has been impressive, as well as his ability to let me make decisions and direct my own course of action. With the pelvis and tailbone being back in place, the pain and weakness seemed to subside, if only slightly, in the lower back area. But by January I was limping very badly, unable to run (I have been doing low-intensity “jogs/runs” on the weekend), unable to jump or go up stairs comfortably, and, I had difficulty sitting down or getting up. I feel 90 years old each time I get out of my car.

It was in early February that the MRI came back – it showed that there are some inflamed facet joints, my torn left hamstring is very visible, and, the bad news is that I have a torn left hip labrum. My bones in the left hip are not deteriorated at all, but instead, they look rather spectacular. The labrum surrounding the hip joint is torn, and surgery appears to be inevitable. I have no ability to move as a sedentary person would, let alone someone with my vigor and energy. The longer this goes on, the more potential damage to my hip joint and femur bone.

Between the pelvis and tailbone, the facet joints, the torn hamstring, and the torn hip labrum, I don’t know which one is the horse and which are the cart, and what happened when that caused whatever else to break down. I only know that I was perfect until the day I injured myself playing walleyball. Then it all went downhill.

I discovered that many orthopedic hip specialists still won’t touch a torn labrum, and instead they do a full hip replacement. However, I found a local orthopedic surgeon from the Detroit Medical Center who specializes in hip arthroscopy for younger, athletic folks, like me, who don’t wish to give up their mobility or a perfectly good hip joint. A few years ago, Alex Rodriguez had this same surgery, and he was back on the field during the same season. Golfer Greg Norman, hockey superstar Mario Lemieux, and figure skater Michelle Kwan also had similar surgeries.

Here is a good article that makes the case the hip labrum tears are not always the result of a traumatic event, but rather, the result of FAI (femoro-acetabular impingement syndrome), where “there is a bump of extra bone, either on the socket or the ball of the hip, which bangs into the labrum and causes it to tear.”

The good news is that there is some good news. The MRI showed that my spinal cord, from top to bottom, is “very young” with no visible degeneration, and nerves and disks all look spectacular. This did not surprise me; I was very positive that the problems were injury-related and not due to degenerative disease. This is due to my real-food, paleo-primal diet that relies on high fats, medium protein, and only low amounts of carbs while I eschew junk food, all processed foods, industrial (non-pastured) meat, industrial oils, sugar , sweets, and grains.

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8 Responses to The Good News and the Bad News Regarding My Injury

  1. Jim Willis says:

    February 15th, 2012 at 7:54 pm

    Wow, sounds terrible. I have a knee that ruined my weekend athletic aspirations, relegating me to the gerbil workouts because they are low impact. I went to DMC also, for something called an upper tibial osteotomy. oh, and the surgeon had done the same op on Yzerman and yadayada, worked on the Tigers and Pistons, yadayada. Even with the blown out knee i was easily throwing up 6-700 on the sled for reps. now, 150. I’m actually thankful for the gerbil regimen. I wish you well. Thanks for telling about your experience.

  2. Karen De Coster says:

    February 15th, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Jim – is your surgeon Dr. Gary Gilyard, by any chance? Gilyard was an orthopedic surgeon for the Pistons and Red Wings (and before that, the NY Islanders and Knicks), and he did my (3) shoulder surgeries. Or did you have Dr. Demers?

  3. splash daddy says:

    February 16th, 2012 at 4:09 pm

    Sounds like you need to give your body a chance to heal properly and fully before returning to the high-intensity workouts. Maybe shift over to a lighter intensity swimming and walking routine for a while. It will be difficult for someone as driven as you but be wise and disciplined. You need to heal and that requires some rest

    I’m 51 and am very fit and healthy for my age as I follow a paleo diet and exercise philosophy and live a very active lifestyle. None of us are as young as we were yesterday and we cross thresholds when ageing where we simply do not heal or recover as quickly as we used to. We have to accept the realities of repetitive stress and cummulative trauma.

    Take it easy until you get your health back. Sometimes a nap is better than a workout.

  4. John Bowman MD says:

    February 16th, 2012 at 10:48 pm

    The normal treatment of a torn hip labrum is arthroscopic surgery.  Another less known option is prolotherapy, a technique where you inject hypertonic solutions into the injured area in order to get the body to come in and heal itself.  This treatment is often done by physiatrists (like a doctor in physical medicine) but can be done by any trained physician. A couple of good websites to check out prolotherapy are that of Dr Mark Darrow in LA (www.drdarrow.com) and Dr Ross Houser in Chicago (www.caringmedical.com).  Prolotherapy is on the list of great treatments that no one has ever heard of, and is largely kept alive by the Hackett Hemwall Foundation at UW-Madison.  (www.hacketthemwall.org).  Hip arthroscopy itself is still pretty young- good luck with whichever path you choose!

  5. Daniel Kirsner says:

    February 17th, 2012 at 12:06 am

    I had “this” (labrum debridement/femoral reshaping, ligamentum teres debridement, hip microfracture and yada yada yada) done on both of my hips in the past year or so, the good news is that of the 11+ surgeries I’ve had since ’04, these were perhaps the most successful (at least judging by results at this point in time). The bad news is that you are probably not going to enjoy the recovery period, not because of great pain but because of the post-op limping and the probability that you will be partial-weight bearing for some time. Try to be patient, even if this proves impossible for you …

    BTW–if they find significant cartilage damage, look into DeNovo NT…

  6. Jen says:

    February 18th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    I am currently in school to become a Physical Therapist Assistant and would love to hear why you said physical therapy doesn’t usually work. I can understand why it may not have worked for you with this injury since you didn’t yet have a clear diagnosis (it’s hard to treat when we don’t know what’s wrong with you!), but I’m still interested in your thoughts.

  7. Karen De Coster says:

    February 18th, 2012 at 7:04 pm

    Jen – I actually didn’t say that, but rather, I stated that traditional therapy would not fix/heal a torn labrum, especially for a highly-active, non-sedentary person like myself. Torn hip labrums, for orthopedic surgeons, are a sub-specialty within a specialty, and even the Docs have trouble understanding these injuries. No “therapy” can fix this problem; therapy will be useful post-surgery, however, to get my movement and range back.

    Most traditional PT is not oriented toward the individual; so much of it is one-size-fits-all textbook voodoo. Post-shoulder surgery, I was sent for PT and my *therapist* was 80 lbs overweight. It was like getting PT from Oprah. I dumped her after 2 sessions. I found a studly PT – she was Asian and fit, and geared toward athletes – so I found a good match, and someone who looked at me as unique. So many PTs are just memorizing, cramming, and passing exams, yet lacking any unique approaches, and, they don’t understand very active folks like me. For someone like me, that is a disastrous combination, with me as patient. There are many good ones, but hard to find. The ones that stand out, for me, are those folks who look beyond the obvious and train to be better than the expectations that are set for their “average” peers.

  8. Jim Willis says:

    February 19th, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Karen-it was Robert Teitge

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