The Road to Recovery

As many of you may well be aware, recently the clinicians at Osteohealth have been dropping like flies. Both myself with my shoulder and Marnie with her Achilles. So I thought I would write a blog about both my personal experience and self doubts with my rehabilitation and recovery process.

Whilst I was bending to pick up the footy a few weeks ago, I was hit front on by my opponent and knew straight away that I was in trouble. My hand went numb and then I felt my shoulder and noticed my collar bone was popping up and my shoulder was sagging down. My AC joint had been separated and it was quite uncomfortable. Luckily for me, we were playing at Wodonga so I walked myself down to the emergency department of the hospital for further assessment. I wanted to make sure that (thankfully) via x-ray nothing was broken and the degree/type of AC injury I had suffered- there are 6 and mine was in between a grade 2-3.

What next!!
After grabbing some pain relief on my way home from the hospital, I had to make the dreaded phone call… Thankfully I’ve got some extremely understanding bosses who were empathetic to my situation. After telling them what happened, we realised that I would be out of action at work for a little while and so they begun rescheduling my patients. Although I’ve had numerous injuries over time, this is the only one that has had significant impact on my ability to work. Initially, I had thoughts of calling it quits, the ability to earn an income as opposed to playing footy- your mind does funny things when you are recovering from an injury!
On the Monday following my injury I visited Dr Radley Steel. Radley is a local sports doctor who the clinic has a strong referral base for our more difficult cases. This appointment was to determine the next course of action, whether it be surgical or conservative. Thankfully I avoided going under the knife and settled on two weeks in a sling instead. After sleeping on the couch for four nights I was able to get back into bed. Through the initial stages, I paid the price for not taking regular pain medication and trying to be a hero. There is a reason you can take Panadol every 4 hours and it made all the difference. After catching up on Game of Thrones in preparation for the new season and watching the NBA, I was starting to get bored at home and was driving my partner insane.

We advise all Workcover patients to recover at work and returning to “light duties” helped me deal with the mental void I was having when I was at home. After a week of time on the couch, I was finally able to get a shirt over my head and back into work. It was a great insight for me to float in and out of the treatment rooms, observing the way my colleagues operate and manage certain conditions. They were utilising a variety of techniques that I had somehow forgotten since graduation and became set in my treatment ways. The time at work took my mind off my injury and allowed me to return to a somewhat normal lifestyle.

Lisa and Sheila are currently in charge of my rehabilitation and return to sport program. I know that I’m a frustrating patient and that my compliance may not be great as I try to do too much too quickly, which we have all found challenging. My body is used to doing one thing but my injury tells me otherwise, and rushing the recovery process will only cause me long term detrimental issues! After a period of immobilisation, my rehab focused on regaining my range of motion by trying to get my arms above my head. I wondered numerous times throughout this period if it would ever be the same and if from now on I’d have a GOOD and a BAD shoulder, not a left and a right. But through the guidance of the girls, my range of motion gradually came back to  point where my shoulder is now functional.
Following the return of this motion, it was time to incorporate some strength work into my program. This is the stage that it’s imperative to listen to your therapist. Slight pain and discomfort are normal and good. You are stressing the tissues that need to be stretched and strengthened, but allowing enough time between exercises to allow the tissues to grow and regenerate. This period of time felt like somewhat of a roller-coaster, where we were heading up towards the sky but had little drops and bumps along the way- no big drops though! As a patient, this can be an extremely apprehensive period as the thought of re-injury is strong and our pain processing pathways alter our thinking. With some strength under my belt, we started to develop a return to sport plan. At this stage, I had set myself a few goals to help keep me on track and accountable.
  1. Improve my FTP on the bike. Cycling on the trainer was the only thing I could do for the first 2 and a half weeks of rehab.
  2. Run Nail Can on the 5th of May. This will be approximately 4 weeks from when my injury occurred.
  3. Be able to swim with minimal impairment by June. I have a long term goal of completing an Ironman. To do this I will need to be able to swim 3.8km.
  4. Be able to take a tumble on the slopes this Winter at Falls and Hotham with no concern of injuring my shoulder.
I knew that if I set a goal of returning to the football field I would be rushing my rehab to get back sooner rather than later. Currently the boys don’t really need me as they have been doing a great job without me! The plan will be to slowly incorporate footy training with light skills and fitness base at Adrenaline. I will slowly progress back into contact training and eventually games, without putting a time frame or unwanted pressure on myself.
Full Recovery
After the injury I will continue to complete shoulder blade stabilisation and motion exercises for the foreseeable future. The step on my shoulder will be there for the rest of my life but to me, my full recovery will be complete when I don’t think about my shoulder during activity. Be it an awareness/apprehension of being hit at footy or raising my arms fully above my head without noticing my shoulder. It may never be exactly the same as pre injury but it will be functional. I’m 18 months post PCL tear in my knee and I’m still cautious of jumping in the ruck at footy but otherwise it doesn’t bother me- so it’s functional but not fully healed. To me, this is why goals are so important when returning to activity from injury.
-Brant Dickson