Girljock Stuff


Knee Drama
January 16, 2008, 11:33 pm
Filed under: Media

In the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes Marilyn Monroe sings “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” but as a soccer player I’ve often thought fondly of legs. I like them more than sparkly expensive rocks. Even my own legs can still walk all over the place, play a little soccer, make it through an aerobics class or two, and attempt to do some yoga. I may never be stretchy like a dancer but the world already has a lot of stretchy dancers. While I can still get out and play soccer with the guys, the latest reincarnation of the sports carpet wonder astroturf has been giving me a new set of aches and pains, and this time its a bit in my right knee and my hamstrings. I recently read an article saying that someone wrote a computer program that will interpret or translate the barking of dogs. Well I’ve got my own barking dogs that need some translation, I’m talking about my legs. I could use a computer program to translate my knee and leg aches into some common sense, but that hasn’t been released yet.

One of my old friends called and told me she was playing some fun soccer this weekend and she suddenly, when no-one was even trying to tackle her twisted her knee in an odd place and it made a funny sound, she fell over like a suddenly floppy rag doll, and now has trouble walking. The next day the doctor told her either its a torn cartilage or a bone bruise. She’s having trouble straightening her leg. This Sunday she’ll be deep inside the MRI chamber, while they have a good look into what really is going on there under the kneecap.

Exercise is supposed to be good for us and make us feel better, stronger, and more peaceful. Yet after my friend’s story, I started to wonder if there is some mysterious amount of soccer games each of our bodies will allow us to play. If that is so, I will happily go back and then add up how many games I’ve ever played to see if I’m close to the magic number. I really don’t want to have to excuse myself from playing due to some career ending injury. Yet I know the odds are good that at some point most women soccer players get an ankle or a knee injury. I have started to feel more like perhaps I am an addicted gambler stuck in my own soccer rut since I’ve had two serious sprains on my right ankle (so bad the doctors have warned me that the next time I will require surgery) and I have sprained both my right and left knees. I have a plastic fake ankle I’m supposed to wear when I play. I almost never wear it though. How many more close calls will I get?
My first right knee sprain was bad enough that I quit playing soccer for five years. However like a moth to the flame I could not stay away forever and I returned again. The sport is exciting, you get to run all over the place, its a lot of exercise condensed into just a few hours, and its mesmerizing. Plus I missed the camaraderie with the players.

Perhaps I should either get a special sweatshirt made that says: “Over the Hill Player, Handle with Care”, or else get out all my calendars and count the number of games I’ve ever played. Either way I have to wonder how much longer I can get away with still playing the sport that makes me ache as much as it actually does. Today my right knee is throbbing, and both hamstrings are on fire. I already wear the largest sized shin guards that are available, if I wear a bigger size they will cover my actual knees. While I used to , as a younger person, train hard to play on the best of teams, that has all changed. My personal challenge is never winning or losing, it is just walking off the field. And just last Sunday, my friend didn’t get to do that.

It makes me wonder when should we throw in the towel? Do we wait till the sport makes us say Uncle and we have to pay a lot of money to some surgeon to fix us up and put the body parts all back in place? Or will I just wake up one day and know how lucky I’ve been to have had all those great times playing on all the grass covered fields out under the sun and rain? Will I just magically know when to say “enough” or will the game itself spit me out like well chewed tobacco?