Saturday, November 3, 2012

Let the kids play!

I hate being around other people when I sweat.

Perhaps you remember my rant about running. The only sentient being I want to be around when I run is my dog.

When I lift weights, I won't even ask for a spot when I am bench pressing my body weight because that would involve another person being near me. (This may have once or many times resulted in me dropping a fully loaded bar on my chest so that I could be patronizingly lectured about the importance of a spotter to a "wee thing like me" by the big dude who came to my rescue).

When I do yoga, I work extra hard to ignore all those supremely annoying loud breathers around me so that I can be "present on my own mat" (whatever the hell that means) where, incidentally, I am the only person.

You see, I am a sport loner. With the exception of softball, the only team sport I've ever played. And that is only because (a) I am an ass-kickingly good first-base-woman so it is good for my ego, and (b) there is a lot of beer at all of the games. (DISCLAIMER: I also curled competitively for years, which involves 3 other teammates. But let's stop kidding ourselves. Curling is not a sport, no matter what the IOC says.)

Yet a couple of weeks ago, I got suckered into playing dodgeball. It was a moment of weakness. My friends - who unbeknownst to me were in a competitive dodgeball league - needed me cause they were a (wo)man short. And since it is nice to be needed, I said yes.

I will spare you the play by play call of the games. There are only really two important details. The first is that we were playing against a team of assholes, who take this game WAY too seriously. I mean, they had formations and strategies and knee pads and shit. Either they were really, really unhappy in their jobs (perhaps not a surprise in a town full of bureaucrats), or they just really, really, really needed to get laid.

The second important detail is that the team on which I was subbing was not serious. Not even a little bit, really. There were no formations. And our most complex strategy was "try not to get hit with the ball", followed by "try to hit the other guys with the ball".

So it should come as no surprise to know that we were getting our asses kicked. But what the hell. At least I was burning off a few calories...

And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the guys on the other team in full wind-up mode, and that ball was going to come straight at me. With cat-like reflexes, thinking only of my survival, I pivoted to face him, held the ball that I was holding up, and...

The good news is that I blocked the shot, preserving myself for a few moments longer.

The bad news is that my left thumb jammed straight back at an unnatural and indescribable angle.

(Have I ever mentioned that I am left-handed)

I immediately dropped the ball I was holding and let loose a string of profane words that should never, ever, ever be uttered in an elementary school gym. A second or two later, I was mercifully hit by an opponent's ball so that I could retreat to the bench, where I rocked back and forth, trying desperately not to (a) vomit or (b) cry in front of a room full of strangers. Not wanting anyone to know how very much pain I was in, I even tried to play again, only to find that my left hand, which was growing ever larger, ever more colourful, and ever more grotesque with each passing minute, was rendered completely useless, because, evidently, thumbs are fundamentally necessary to pick up and throw balls.

I wish that I had taken a picture of my hand to show you just how bad it really was. But I couldn't stand to look at it myself, much less have photographic evidence of its frankenstein-esque existence at the end of my left arm. Suffice it to say that it was bruised, swollen, and extremely painful. And after visits to a walk-in clinic, my physiotherapist, my family doctor, a plastic surgeon, and an x-ray clinic (do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to tell so many health care professionals that you injured yourself playing freaking dodgeball?!?), we determined that it is not broken (Yay!), but it is a level 3 sprain (Booooo!). Which means that the ligament is torn.

I don't actually know what gamekeeper's thumb is...
Like me, you probably take the ulnar collateral ligament for granted. Well, don't. It's what makes us human! (Or raccoons... Raccoons probably have this ligament too, since they also have opposable thumbs...) It's why you can make a fist, make shadow puppets, use scissors, open a ziplock bag, give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down, open a jar, grasp a pen and write, apply make-up, button up a shirt, do up - or undo - a bra, zip up your coat, tie your shoelaces, pull on your knee-high boots, hold on to anything that weighs more than one pound, use a smartphone... I think you get the picture. Suffice it to say that when this ligament is torn, you can't do any of the above-mentioned. At least not without swearing, crying, or vomiting...

This is a thumb spica
And so, I must spend the next six weeks wearing a thumb spica - a rather difficult-to-find (I had to go to about 17 different pharmacies and/or medical supply stores before I found one) splint that immobilizes your thumb so that the ligament will hopefully reattach itself on its own. If it does not, then the plastic surgeon will operate. In the meantime, my insurance coverage for physiotherapy, which I like to use on real injuries (like groin pulls, torn TFLs, knee pain) sustained while playing real sports (like weight-lifting, running, softball) is slowly dwindling so that I can rehab my freaking thumb. But what choice do I have? I am left-handed, and as we have clearly established, I can't function without this extremely important digit!

There is a point to all of this. The point is that Vince Vaughan and Ben Stiller have done a great disservice to us all by making that damn movie. There were no adult dodgeball leagues before 2004. And do you know why? Because there is a remarkable difference between a ball being thrown at another human being with all the force of a fun-loving, grade-five child behind it, and one thrown by a 6'2", 220lb, sexually-frustrated, knee-pad wearing, disillusioned-with-his-job, never-been-really-good-at-anything-in-his-life-so-he-spends-way-too-much-time-perfecting-his-dodgeball-throw adult. Also, children are far more flexible and resilient than 30- and 40-somethings. Oh yeah, and less frail...

And so, let me depart this wisdom, lest you are ever asked to sub in on - or join - an adult dodgeball team...


Instead, just let the kids play.