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  1. #1
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    Returning after injury--worth the risk?

    I suppose I know that it's a personal decision, but I am interested to know how many have come back to mountain biking after a serious injury. Last November I decided to add on a final race to my season because I had a blast racing all summer (my first season racing MTB). Things were going well after a slow start and I was passing people as I made my way toward the lead group. Out of nowhere I hit some sand at an odd angle on a sweeping downhill curve and went down harder than I ever had. I dislocated my shoulder, tearing my labrum and RTC in the process.

    I went through months of PT and luckily avoided surgery. However, I did experience enough pain and interruption in my daily life to make me rethink ever getting on the MTB again. Now, I have been riding since I was 4 years old and I'm 39 now, so I've had my share of stitches, concussions, etc. This was an entirely different level of injury. Nine months later I am more or less back to normal as far as my daily activities go, but I am not as I was before the accident. I still cannot sleep on my right (dominant) arm because of the discomfort. I have been riding my road bike quite a bit and have no problems doing so. As much as I like road riding, I really miss the trails as well as the rush of racing. I also recently moved and have a wealth of amazing riding right near my house.

    So, I'm considering giving it another go. I no longer have a MTB, so I was going to rent one locally and take a few rides. I don't think I will ever race again as the pressure to push the limits is too great. I would like to enjoy the trails and have an alternative to the road riding however. My fear is that I'll crash again and need surgery, thus losing another year of my life to injury and perhaps lose more function in my day to day life. Anyone have any thoughts? Been in a similar situation?

  2. #2
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    You might want to post this in Rider Down, injuries and recovery

    To keep it racing specific, its impossible to predict whether you will want to race again without first just riding. When you are away from any activity that carries even a slight risk of injury, the mind will easily convince you that the risk of injury outweighs the joy of the sport. Get out on your bike and enjoy the new trails. Decide later if racing is in the picture again.
    My other bike is a /7.

  3. #3
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    If you want to do it do it. You might fall off a curb hit, your head and die but I assume you leave your house once in a while. So unless you can see the future go out and enjoy life.

  4. #4
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    ďYour regrets aren't what you did, but what you didn't do. So I take every opportunity.Ē
    ― Cameron Diaz

    I believe this to be true!

    get out and ride but use about of common sense when you get tired its time to slow down it seems most accidents occur when i lose my focus

  5. #5
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    How much time do you have?

    Mine could wind up being a very long response. Or, I could be curt and just say do whatever feels "right" to you.

  6. #6
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    Returning after injury--worth the risk?

    This is very much a personal decision.

    My view is that balancing risk is the key. Ride, enjoy riding but maybe don't push the limits as hard. The aim being to get home in one piece.

    If you've been riding all that time and the worst cycling injury you've had by the age of 39 is just a single dislocated shoulder which didn't require surgery that's been an extremely good run. I'd happily settle for that.

    At fracture clinic yesterday I was talking to a man who'd been run over and had his lower leg and ankle crushed by a forklift truck at work. It sounded like it could be a long recovery for him as it required multiple grafts

    One of the best ones was a woman who'd been running to answer the telephone. She tripped and broke both ankles. Ooops.

  7. #7
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    I dislocated my shoulder in 1995 in and did way more damage than you did. I cracked the glenoid, tore the labrum, shredded the capsule and had an avulsion fracture on the humerus. I've have since dislocated about a dozen more times from bumping a wall, to playing catch on a beach and other ways. Only once from riding though and that was the first time.

    After 3 surgeries, 6 screws and part of a pig intestine (go ahead, call me porkenstein) put in to replace the capsule. I spent years going through surgeries, PT, sleeping in a recliner, and having to give up a lot of other things I liked doing. The last Ortho doc I saw is the MN Twins doc who works on million dollar pitching arms. My arm is worth more than a million dollars to me. He told me that if I came back, he'd surgically freeze the joint shut.

    Iím 42 and still mtn bike today. Iím way more cautious then I was years ago. Having a family and hearing the words from my last Dr. had me resetting priorities. Sure, I still take chances have had some close calls, but mtn biking is way too much fun for me to give up.

    As for racing, I still race, but have switched to the longer endurance type of events. Fitness has more to do with those than bike handling skills. I was never winning races before, it was always to have fun and thatís what it is today.

    Keep riding and remember that you donít have to prove anything to anyone. Who cares if your buddies rip a section faster than you do. Youíre still out there instead of on the couch. Enjoy the trails near you and find races where you can have fun in.

  8. #8
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    This sounds like one of those decisions where you won't know what you want until you go out and try it. I had a similar situation this spring -- slid out on a corner during a crit at 30 MPH. ****-ton of road rash, broken collarbone, all that fun stuff. When it came time to get back on the bike, I was pretty timid at first. I actually braked so much in front of corners that I wouldn't have to lean the bike over to make the turn. After two more months of riding, I like to think that I'm at ~85-90% of the confidence I had before that crash. One thing that I need to do now that I'm back in the area is go out and ride that corner again. Not at race speed, because it's not closed to traffic, but I still need to ride it.

    The decision's entirely up to you, OP. I'd say that the best thing you can do is at least get back on a bike to see how it feels.
    I've made some bad decisions like taking the gears off my bike. So here's the warning: Do not as I say, nor as I do.

  9. #9
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    Thanks for the thoughts. @tbaier: I posted here because the injury forum seems to have a bit more of the meat-headed, young and invincible responses. I always appreciate the knowledge and experience of the xc racing forum even if it is not a racing related issue. I don't need a teenager advising me to do irresponsible things, particularly one without the need to support a family, work, etc. A couple of months of not being able to bathe or dress myself warrants more consideration than a reckless just go for it kind of response. I know I may be making blanket judgements, but I often get that impression from the injury forum. No offense intended toward the more mature posters over there.

    It sounds like most agree that giving a shot is not a bad idea. Perhaps I just needed to hear this to reinforce my own feelings. It always helps to hear the experiences of others. Thanks.

  10. #10
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    Returning after injury--worth the risk?

    At 40, I crashed a dirt bike and herniated my C5, I was temporarily paralyzed after my wreck, only for about 30 min but I thought it was forever. I had my C5,6,7 fused and spent about 5 weeks in the hospital.
    I had to learn to do a lot of things that always came natural to me and biking was one of them.
    I ride as much as I can but my style has definitely changed, no big jumps, not super fast and I puss out on stuff all the time. I now come to technical things and just picture ways to fail instead of flying through them. All that being said I will never stop riding and still love every second of it and if you love ride and just take it a little easier and you'll be fine.
    I'm sick of all the Irish stereotypes, as soon as I finish this beer I"m punching someone

  11. #11
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    Wow, now that is certainly a more severe injury than mine. Good to hear that you are able to ride conservatively and continue to enjoy it.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by sfgiantsfan View Post
    I now come to technical things and just picture ways to fail instead of flying through them.
    That's another thing: thinking about crashing is a great way to crash. Focus on what's actually happening while you're riding technical obstacles, rather than thinking about what could happen.
    I've made some bad decisions like taking the gears off my bike. So here's the warning: Do not as I say, nor as I do.

  13. #13
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    I am hoping to avoid being in your position as far as the surgeries go. So far, I don't seem to have any instability in the joint and I hope it stays that way. Good to hear that you are still riding in spite of your injury history.

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    I fractured C5 after overshooting a jump 9 mos ago. I had a good recovery and was back on the bike as soon as the neck brace was off. (a little before actually). I am back racing this season. I ride more conservatively but am faster due to better training and conditioning. By pushing the limits more carefully and focusing on bike handling (or maybe becoming more aware of bike balance) I have significantly reduced the number of off the bike excursions (fingers crossed). I do walk any number of sketchy features when riding alone as I was riding alone when I had my crash and was lucky to get out by myself and many other respects. I would say get back on the bike and just dial it back to a point where you are quite comfortable.

  15. #15
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    Returning after injury--worth the risk?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmal View Post
    I am hoping to avoid being in your position as far as the surgeries go. So far, I don't seem to have any instability in the joint and I hope it stays that way. Good to hear that you are still riding in spite of your injury history.
    Thanks. I think you need to get out and ride. You loved it before and you will love it again. You may not be able to ride as hard as before but like dihentin said you can ride differently and train harder in other ways. I love the way I ride now and don't give a sh!t that I walk more than I used to.
    I'm sick of all the Irish stereotypes, as soon as I finish this beer I"m punching someone

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmal View Post
    It sounds like most agree that giving a shot is not a bad idea. Perhaps I just needed to hear this to reinforce my own feelings. It always helps to hear the experiences of others. Thanks.
    So, to give my not-so-long story, I had been training and racing at a pretty high level for about 3-3.5 years. I had one pretty minor, though lasting/recurring injury (not specifically from cycling, but long hours on the bike in the cold did me in) in 2011, and was basically raring to go in 2012. Needless to say, made it to be able to race the UCI World Cup at Windham in my own kit (instead of purchasing USA kit for the race and petitioning to go) and lined up June 30, 2012. Race started, and I went lights out, probably hardest I've ever raced in my life.

    I made it about 18 minutes before I entered a woods section and must've hit a kicker or something, got booted off my bike, left leg flew up and back, and I landed on my right heel. I was ready to just jump up and try to maintain a little bit of placing (I didn't want to be pulled based on the 80% rule). Well, I couldn't get up. It felt like I had the most horrible cramp ever to be experienced in my left hamstring, and even once I was able to put some weight on my right foot, my left leg wouldn't straighten or hold me, so I basically collapsed to the ground again.

    Medical had a quad they carried me up to a Rhino in, with my bike, and that took me up to the top of the mountain and I had an SUV ride down. I felt awful, physically and mentally/emotionally, and once "discharged" from the race medical team (nothing they could do for me), I couldn't walk whatsoever, so we were ER-bound.

    Eventual Dx 2.5 weeks later: proximal hamstring repair surgery due to complete full-thickness tears of all three hamstring tendons where they attach to the sit bone. I had surgery in mid-July.

    I told a friend, in between injury and surgery, that I felt like I was done racing. It felt like I would never put on a number plate again.

    By and large, from the time I could get back on a bike (Sept 2012) to about early July this year, riding was more a chore than a hobby or escape or fun. The saddle was painful and uncomfortable, I was not at all fit, much much heavier than I had been in years. I just didn't enjoy mountain biking. I was tentative on descents, and super slow on climbs.

    I tried two different PT's, took time off all exercise, tried jogging, tried lifting heavy weights, tried resting. Nothing was making any difference. I have a long commute, and so basically since I sit on my attachment site for 2+ hours a day in a car, and then 8 hours a day at work, I'm constantly scratching the open wound so to speak.

    But, mid-July I finally decided I was going to try something different - riding every day for 30 days.

    And, I found I started to enjoy it. I started to really enjoy it. I got much more confidence descending. I was having fun again.

    And, now I feel like I want to do a race again at some point

    I can't train the way I was (life just isn't set up that way anymore, nowhere near enough free time or job flexibility), so I'd be lucky to get half my weekly hours, but I'll never be a World Cup racer. Doesn't mean I can't go have fun riding my bike. My biggest goal at this point is to be able to do 3-4 hour rides and not want to throw myself off a cliff due to discomfort and irritation sitting

    So, yeah. My advice, ride your bike. If you get the itch to race, pick a race probably you know and feel comfortable with and see how it goes. If you get through one lap and decide you're done, pull out. No harm no foul. If you turn on again and you're in it and find you had fun and still have that drive, go out and race!

    I realize my injury may not have been a broken neck (hubby did that in 2010 - 3 broken vertebrae with hangman's fracture of C4, and multiple facet fractures on C5-6, plus avulsion fracture of his patella, and a fully stitched up face. He came back a year later and had his best season ever - no hesitation), but for me, my injury is definitely a long-lasting injury that changed my cycling life as I knew it. Even if the surgeon and PT cleared me, I'll be dealing with my hamstring and tendon attachment issues forever at this point. And, I'm finally learning to deal with and be okay with that.

    Injuries can happen to anyone anytime. Whether you're out riding mountain bikes, dirt bikes, or walking through an icy parking lot on a cold evening and slip and fall, we don't live in bubbles. I guess at least we were out doing what we enjoyed doing and trying to live life. If it's argued it's not the healthiest sport out there, well... it's got to be better than eating our way to heart attacks watching football (NTTAWWT )

  17. #17
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    Allison, thanks for taking the time to share your experience. I remember when you had your accident and I felt so badly for you. I had been following you and Justin on your blog periodically, and also reading your posts here. I was really proud of (and amazed by) both of your accomplishments in such a short amount of time. Even if I have not been a visible presence on the forum, I still felt a sense of community here, and we all share that knowledge of how it feels to suffer through a race, finish, and share the subsequent high with friends. That's a powerful feeling.

    I'm really glad to hear that you are finding a positive way to handle your injury. I am planning on riding again as soon as the trails dry out. I no longer own a MTB, but local shops have rentals. I was going to ride today, but it has been raining so I am now aiming for Monday. I plan to hit some non-technical trails to see how my shoulder responds to the various forces of the bike. If all goes well, I may be in the market for a new bike in the near future. Thanks again for the response.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by jmal View Post
    I plan to hit some non-technical trails to see how my shoulder responds to the various forces of the bike. If all goes well, I may be in the market for a new bike in the near future. Thanks again for the response.
    Thank you

    You may actually find that the shoulder gets a little stronger with some dedicated practice. High frequency and low duration is good for returning. So your body can re-learn how to deal with the stresses and forces.

    If it's stiff and needs a little work, it's gotta be used (once safe to do so from a medical perspective) to get a little stronger and more flexible.

    That's basically what it came down to for me, I think. Realizing my body wasn't going to re-adapt to whatever physiological changes I have from the surgery (scar tissue, nerve impingement, muscle imbalances) through NOT riding. The body is super adaptable and good at healing, but not if we don't give it something to adapt to and heal for! N=1 on that for me, anyway.

    I've been finding the adrenaline/endorphin release/high has been pretty helpful in overall mind/body feeling to be honest!

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