Human Frailty: The Physical Variety

The winter sun is playing hide and seek with thick clouds. Light shines intermittently off the bright green artificial surface of the suburban hockey pitch. On the grassy hill next to the clubrooms some opposition supporters are chatting amongst themselves waiting for the game to start. The BBQ in the kiosk is working overtime to supply the regular punters with snags and beer as they settle into their weekend ritual.

In the change rooms my team is gearing up while discussing positions and tactics. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through that familiar ritual. I started when I was 10 years old…I think. I’m 32 now, and these days I do it without thinking. There are always butterflies and excitement with every game. The pre-match routine helps to focus and harness that nervous energy and translate it into action. Forget flight – this is the “Fight Response”. And I love it.

I can picture it vividly without too much effort. A warm up jog, followed by sprints and shuttle runs until there is a sheen of sweat and the heart is pumping (if your team is serious enough – we didn’t do that at age 10). Then into the sheds. Smother your legs in Deep Heat to the point where you can’t smell anything else, kit on, shin pads down the socks and mouth guard wedged in. Fired up and ready to rock and roll.

But I’m not there this week.

I’m on the sideline, feeling like an interloper. I’ve got a cold beer in my hand and I’m reminded it is still winter. I should still have brought the Deep Heat. At least it would have numbed my hands.

“Osteitis pubis – and it looks bad. You’ve got a slight hernia as well.” Said the physio looking at me with the corners of his mouth turned down. That was a few days ago.

“Osteitis pubis?” I replied, at the same time thinking ‘what the fuck is that supposed to be?!’

I now know that it means inflammation of the pubic bone. It is often caused by repetitive action such as sprinting and changing direction rapidly. Did you get the part where I said I played hockey for donkey’s years? I also played touch footy, netball, and used to be a decent sprinter as well.

I also run quite a lot too. Exercise has always helped to keep me balanced and sane. Without exercise I’m an idiot, quite frankly. The excess energy goes to my head, disrupts my sleep patterns, makes me irritable, hard to concentrate, paranoid – you name it! Maybe my next chapter to this should be “Human Frailty: The Mental Variety”?!

Alas I digress.

I’m back at the ground sipping at my beer and trying to think of useful words to encourage my team from the sideline. I’m more focused on my thoughts and frustration at being injured. If you know me well enough you would see it, sense the angst.

I reflect on former glory. Geez, it wasn’t that long ago I could run onto a hockey field and run off again without even warming up or stretching down. Christ almighty – I could run the hundred metres in just over 11 seconds (okay – maybe 11.5). And if anyone ever wanted me to play a second game that day – no problems, I’d always be up for it. The next day I might be a little stiff, but I’d always be able to hit the gym, play a social game of netball, whatever.

But not now. Now I have to rethink my lifestyle, my exercise habits, develop a completely new routine. The physio says a lay-off of 6-18 months.

I’m devastated.

In truth I probably saw it coming but never wanted to believe it. That broken ankle back in ‘93 with the two screws. It never healed properly and I still have a screw in there to show for it, and – more significantly – a slight angle to my foot that wasn’t there before the break.

That angle is what turned out to be the kicker. Every sprint and run, every sudden take-off or change of direction (and there were many) was slowly doing me damage and I didn’t know it. Didn’t want to know it until it was too late. And then one day I couldn’t walk properly any more. Every time I sit down or stand up it feels like someone is hacking into my right hand pelvic bone with a knife.

So here I am. My team is losing and I feel like I should be there, making a difference, turning things around.

“Who’s shout is it?” Calls one of the punters from the crowd. I’m only half way through my beer but the BBQ smell is working on my appetite. I let out a sigh and turn around.

“I’ll go” I reply to the group of punters, and make my way over to the bar.

Human Frailty: The Physical Variety

Craig Shadbolt

Crows Nest, Australia

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Artist's Description

These are some thoughts I put together some time last year when I was first diagnosed with a nasty sporting injury. It has had a fairly significant effect on my life as well as make me appreciate what I had in my teens and 20s!

I’m gradually getting better now but, more importantly, have no regrets about my past sporting passions!

This is not intended as a work of literary genius, but some people might identify with it!

Artwork Comments

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