First you feel pain. Then you feel shame.

First you feel pain. Then you feel shame.

Knees are wretched, fragile things. I’ve never hurt one before, but rat hockey game #2 has sent me on an educational journey in personal injury. I would have maybe traveled this road before, except that I’ve never played a team sport until now. The closest I have come was a collection of bruises from two and a half years in karate. Much like the dojo or karate tournament, the ice will teach you that failure hurts.

What has me just plain angry with myself is how a simple stop would have prevented the fall. I collided with a teammate in front of the net during a stoppage in play; neither of us stopped or turned enough to avoid each other. Thankfully, we were both moving very slowly. If I would have just slammed a stop on my left skate, something I could have easily done, there would not have been a problem. It was this same lack of concentration, this failure to be present in the moment that was a keen reminder of past kicks and punches I failed to block or dodge, and all the times an opponent made me eat the mat, except this time the mat was a sheet of ice.

In a way it was a bit of a freak accident. I pride myself on balance but I had a twist to my torso, my skates were not aligned in the direction I was facing as well as they should have been, a bump bent my upper body backwards and my right skate shot out behind me. I felt like I was trying to reverse kick my shoulder and like I fell in an odd C shape.  My knee made a loud pop and I couldn’t pull myself up onto all fours as waves of a weird shock rolled through me. It took two tries for me to answer are you okay and the answer was no… no. The guys got me on my feet and I put all my weight on my left skate as two gentlemen helped me off the ice. I could not so much as crawled off the ice if I wanted to because it felt like my left knee had left this world.

Some of the failure was a head game on my part. I was so determined to do better this game, to not be the girl on the team, that I was paying less attention to every bit of my body in play. Game #1 I was there to just have fun and do the best that I could.  Game #2 I was determined to achieve something, to do some action successfully. Anything: a make pass, receive a pass, get a shot on net. A shift in priorities was very bad thinking. Putting self protection first served me well in the first game and I did not keep that in the forefront of trying to chase down the puck more aggressively the second time around.

A second failure on my part lay in playing forward positions. I had wanted to stick to defense and Sal pointed out I would have had no pressure to score and some blather about learning the whole game. In retrospect, I feel I should learn how to make peanut butter and jelly sandwich before I try to make Thanksiving Dinner. I failed to listen to my own intuition about restricting myself to defense until I gained more skill. I have a clearer understanding on what areas to play: defend the net, keep the puck over the blue line in the opponents’ zone on the attack, dig the puck out of the corners in my zone. I could float backwards and watch game play come my way and either foil and attacker or try to received the puck. Defense is simpler for me to grasp and my moderate backwards skating abilities had been of some use in rat game #1. I should have stayed in my comfort zone for the sake of safety and I left that comfort zone out of pride and vague ideas of trying harder.

I wound up on center in one position and just worked on trying to set myself up in front of the net for a shot on goal. I was more like Snail Mikita because I flubbed a decent pass, made no passes, made no shots on goal and then fell and hurt myself. On a scale of 10, my humiliation was roughly a 9. I wound up in the bleachers with an ice pack a cheerful and kind Caitlin — combination front office staff, nurse and Zamboni driver — had settled me down with after a much needed and firm better safe than sorry lecture to rest. My ankle was hot and sore and felt pulled, my hip flexor felt like it was punched and my knee was in limbo. Then I did the walk of shame to the shower and locker room.

When the shock wore off, when the adrenaline wore off, when I woke up the next morning, my old Sensei Pain was there for me, along with swelling and weakness, to explain what I did wrong.

Rest, ice, elevation, ibuprofen and cursing have me on the mend. I love getting exercise and have been parked on the sofa or in bed for days and nights and am climbing the walls mentally. I watched an entire TV series in one day and I never do that. I’ve since missed  one hockey class, a high impact Zumba dance class that I love, skating, running, yoga, dog walking and tearing up and down the stairs in my apartment building like it was nothing. Being injured is an unfortunate prison that is best to avoid. At least I have been disciplined about resting and not trying to do things — literally doing nothing — until I heal. The smackdown to my ego is going to be a little trickier to repair.  The best medicine will be to go back to the ice and play wiser than I had been.


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