Whether a weekend warrior or highly conditioned professional athlete, injury and pain resulting from participation in your sport of choice is inevitable. Tennis players are particularly susceptible. Our sport is demanding regardless of the level at which its played. The wide array of athletic moves utilized insure that an ouch could occur with the next sprint, stretch, bend or torque. So, it’s not a question of “if,” its when and how severe the ding will be.
At 6′ 2 1/2″, 245 pounds, I’m not the prototypical size for a higher level tennis player. Intellectually, I know I’m bulky and slow. But some misguided portion of my brain constantly suggests, “you’re strong, nimble, and explosive, so go for it athlete!” Naturally, I often give in to that message. Mistake!
This past season, around mid-summer, on a slightly warm but otherwise perfect day for tennis, I found myself embattled in a set of tennis with Jim Hoskins. Jim is a friend and a good tennis player. It was the 7th game of a 3 all set with Jim serving at 15-40. The 7th game of a set is a highly pivotal juncture so I was in a commanding position at break point. Having missed his first serve and feeling pressured, Jim’s second serve was a “sitter” on which I immediately pounced, driving it deep to the backhand corner. It was evident that the ball was gettable but I relaxed slightly assuming there wasn’t much he could do with it. But then came the unexpected, patented Hoskins dropper.
The rational side of me said, “don’t go for that. It’s a nice shot. Acknowledge it, concede it and move on. I’ll have another break opportunity at 30-40. I’m still in control.” Do you think I listened to that voice of reason? Oh no, of course not but it wasn’t my fault. It was that stupid delusional part of my brain screaming, “you’re explosive, nimble, blah, blah, blah…go for it athlete!” So I did. In that first lunging step, the one required to get 245 pounds into rapid motion, I heard and felt a click in the right side of my groin area.
A sensible man may have instantly stopped, fully aware that something had gone wrong. But “stupid” was still screaming, “you can reach it! Keep going!” So I sprinted harder and with a last desperate stretch, I proved “stupid” right and got the drop shot. Jim simply moved forward and deftly sent up a perfect lob that the two of us stood together at net and watched sail over my head, completely out of reach, well inside the baseline. Jim grinned. I grimaced. There I stood having lost the point while gaining an injury.
The second irrational thing was finishing that set. The following day I could hardly walk. But I had lessons to teach, so I did. I continued on that way for several weeks at the end of which my body had gone into a fit of rebellion.
Continued activity with the original injury had caused three secondary problems, the lower back, shoulder, and neck, all on the right side of my body. And that side was now sending signals to the left to get involved. It was clear that I could no longer rely on a NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) to keep me going. I needed healing. I needed Afua.
Afua Bromley is a remarkably skilled acupuncturist. That’s what you might hear said, read on a pamphlet or find via google. But to me she is far more than that. Afua is a healer.
I’m fortunate to also know Afua as a non-judgmental friend. She never looks at me as if to say, “Martin, you’ve torn yourself up again and stalled getting treatment. Now you are a wreck.” So when I visited her office three weeks ago, I was happy to see her and confident that relief was close at hand. I can say without hesitation that after three comfortable treatments, once per week, I am virtually pain free, without the use of scalpels or drugs.
If you play the wonderful sport of tennis, you will experience the down side of injury. If you happen to be one of my students, if you ever hear me say regarding any discomfort you have, “aw, just shake it off.” DO NOT LISTEN! That’s “stupid” talking, not me. Don’t delay caring for injuries. That only compounds an already painful condition. And remember, there are highly effective alternatives to drugs and scalpels. I’m living proof.