A Moment of Ben-like Zen

Today was day 1 of the Babes ‘N Hats Ultimate Frisbee tournament. I was kind of nervous, because I haven’t played competitive Ultimate since last summer and really that was the only season I’ve ever played competitive ultimate. Last week I watched some Vancouver Ultimate League games at Jericho Park, and damn! they were good. As an aside, the VUL is huge. Over 200 teams playing Monday-Thursday nights. Even considering many players play on multiple teams, that still means about 1000 ultimate players. Yikes!

Anyway, I was worried I was going to be a bit out of place. So, Monday morning, I grabbed my runners, my frisbee, and jumped on my bike to head all the way to Winona Park for the tournament. It took me 45 minutes and I arrived right on time. Most players were warming up or milling about. The people tossing the disc around were incredible. They were flicking discs around effortlessly. Underhands, hammers, anything – all perfectly accurate.

Just after nine, they started the hat draw pulling names out of hats. I ended up on the Forest Green team, grabbed my XL t-shirt, and met my team: 9 guys and 5 girls, most from the VUL and a few from the U.S.A.. We cut the sleeves off our shirts and tried to make them fit us. I’m not sure why they order XL shirts. Most players were small or mediums – I bet only 5 people would actually take an XL if asked.

The first game got off to an auspicious start for me. I was the only one wearing runners and wiped out pretty good the first time I tried to throw on the brakes. I spent most of the game slipping around, but still managed to hold my own, even if I didn’t know any of the strategy or terminology. It was like a whole different world – “No Break!”, “Force Home”, “Hit the dump”. Not to mention horizontal and vertical offence schemes, cup zone defense, and employing the rabbit and the wall. I learned a lot.

Just before the second game, someone came by selling a 2nd hand pair of cleats. They fit almost perfectly, so I tried them out for the 2nd game and bought them from him for $30. The 2nd game went much better. I dropped the first pass to me in the end zone when I was unmarked, but after that I was fine. I felt a lot more competent on defense with cleats.

Babes 'N Hats 1  Babes 'N Hats 2  Babes 'N Hats 3  Babes 'N Hats 4  Babes 'N Hats 5
During the 3rd game, on my first shift I dove to block a pass, got my right hand on the disc, and landed on my right left shoulder. When I went to stand up, my left arm collapsed when I tried to put weight on it and it felt kind of funny. After I stood up I knew I had dislocated it. I got an injury substitute and went to the sidelines. I calmly asked my teammates to pop my shoulder back into place. Everyone stared at me like I was crazy and told me they didn’t know how to just pop it back in. Luckily, Donna, a girl on our team was a physiotherapist, so the pulled her off to take a look at my shoulder. Actually, she turned out to be an Orthopaedic Surgeon specializing in hand and upper extremity surgery. Lucky for me.

She confirmed I had indeed dislocated my shoulder. She said it could pop it back in or we could go to the hospital. If she popped it back in it would feel better, but there was a risk of damage if it was cracked. Memories of Ben flashed into my mind, but I didn’t think I landed hard enough to crack it, so I asked her to pop it back in. I layed on my back and she tried yanking it back into place. But my muscles were tightening up and even with the help of someone else she couldn’t get it back in. People were amazed at how calm I was as they tried to yank my arm back into place. I just focused on slow breathing. Donna told me to stand up and walk around with it hanging down while she went for some muscle relaxants. As I stood to get up, I put weight on the left arm, still not realizing it was in no shape to hold my weight. But somehow that managed to pop it back into place. It felt bruised and sore, but a world better.

Donna told me to keep it immobilized (and buy a sling), ice it, and come to visit her in her clinic on Monday morning for x-rays. She also explained that now that it was dislocated the ligaments around the shoulder will have torn, they won’t heal perfectly, and I will be prone to shoulder dislocations in the future, and may even need surgery. For now, I’m fine though, and just need to keep it form moving too much.

I sat and iced my shoulder during the 3rd and 4th games. They also gave me some Advil to take down the swelling. I didn’t need anything for the pain, but they assured me it was better for the swelling, so I took it. That was the first time I think I’ve ever had a over-the-counter painkiller. By the 4th game, the swelling had gone down, and I could move the shoulder forward and back with no problems, but I still can’t lift my arm sideways.
Chicken Wing Arm
After the game I had to figure out how to get home with my bike. I tried strapping on my backpack and riding my bike. I could extend my left arm to grab the handle bar with minimal discomfort, so I decided to bike some slowly. Luckily, only the first 10 minutes were uphill. Then it was all downhill, and I could do a one-handed biking with a wounded chicken wing thing. I managed to make it home in one piece, and in only 40 minutes. I did slice up my thigh pretty good on the screws from the bike lock I installed yesterday. So I had a nice trail of blood running down my leg as I biked with one arm. I probably looked like real sad story.

On one hand, I’m upset that I hurt myself. I spent good money to play ultimate this weekend and was enjoying myself. And the injury will affect the rest of my life. Just thinking about the damage I did and possible surgery makes me queasy. But I realize that’s the risk with any sport and I wouldn’t give it up for the extra safety. Given the chance, I’d do it all over again. There’s no way I’m going to stay at home when I could be out having fun. Most injuries heal, and what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. My life motto.


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