Competing in last week's CrossFit sectionals was perhaps the greatest athletic feat of my life. Sure I've competed in literally hundreds of swim meets and soccer games throughout my time, but nothing quite compared to the feeling that I had last weekend. The feeling of nerves, desire, desperation, drive, and utter pride. It was all around a fantastic weekend. There was no doubt in my mind that I was 100% proud of myself and the effort I put forth, and damn proud to stand as a member of team CFOT.
But once the medals were awarded, the points tallied, the weights reloaded onto trucks, and the spectators had all gone home, the weight of the weekend finally began to hit. The aftermath that was sectionals began to hit home. In the recap I wrote about the weekend, I wrote that I awoke on Sunday morning without range of motion on my left arm. Despite only having about 50% flexation in my arm, I was determined to compete. Looking back that seems incredibly silly of me, but at the time, my brain was on competition mode, and my goal was to finish the sectionals wods the best I could. After a quick consoltation with an onsight chiropractor/sports med doctor, I was ready to compete. But after another day of competition and two more wods, things went from kinda bad, to really a whole lot worse. On Monday morning I woke up without flexation in either of my arms. My triceps were so tight that things like showering, eating, drinking, putting on clothes, and even putting my hair in a ponytail were either impossible or excrutiating.
On Sunday when I spoke with the onsight doctor he told me that what had happened was either one of two things. I either had a severe strain on my triceps, or I had a localized case of rhabdo. Looking back, as soon as he said rhabdo, I should have left, gone to the doctor, and been examined thoroughly. However, as I mentioned earlier, I was in competition mode. My goal was to get through the day. And honestly, since he presented it as a localized case, it just seemed to imply that it really wasn't that big of a deal. Looking back, I wish that I would have been thinking more clearly, but I wasn't and I can't go back and change the past.
The bottom line is that Sunday, I made a mistake. I put myself in unnecessary danger all because I wanted to compete. Sectionals without a doubt will roll around next year, but by doing what I did, there was serious potential to injure myself badly. I have been around long enough to know what rhabdo is, and know that if that ever becomes an issue I should stop immediately. But for whatever reason, my brain didn't see it that way. Not to mention, the doctor never told me that I couldn't continue. He told me he would help me get through the day. Because of that, I guess I didn't take it seriously. I didn't think it was a big deal. I should have.
The lesson I learned here is this. It is easy to be hard, but hard to be smart. But nevertheless, it's important. By doing what I did, I risked that "localized" rhabdo slipping into other parts of my body. I risked doing serious damage to myself all because of a two day competition. And I'm angry. I'm angry at myself for not thinking clearly when I know I know better, but at the same time, I'm also angry with my doctor. He never told me not to continue, and he never told me that when I was finished, I should see an MD. What he did tell me was to call him on Monday.
Again, granted, I should have been thinking on my own that that would be necessary, but my focus was not on my health. My focus was on finishing. And once I finished, it was on celebrating. I wasn't thinking like a rational person. I did what the doctor wanted, and I called on Monday. Unfortunately, he was already booked and I had to wait to see him until Tuesday. Again, it was never recommended that I see an MD, but I was just told to come in on Tuesday. Again, I should have been thinking more clearly, which obviously I wasn't, but there was a failure on both ends here, and what happened on Tuesday was what made me really angry about the whole thing.
On Tuesday when I went for my appointment, the doctor was still convinced it was rhabdo. He told me that I wouldn't have full ROM back for at least two weeks, and he told me that everything was going to get worse before it got better. The way he presented everything to me, it was as if this was no big deal because it was localized. But before I left the office for work, he reminded me that if certain things began to happen, I was to call 911 immediately. Time out. How did we seem to go from not a big deal to you may die from this? It was like he was trying to scare me, and rightfully so, he did. He scared the shit out of me. But again, if this was what I had, and this was the position that I was in, a) why did he let me go to work, and b) why didn't he ever tell me to go see an MD to confirm the diagnosis?
The only way to be certain of rhabdo is to test your urine and do some blood work to check your levels of things like calcium and protein. So, since I never went to an MD, the diagnosis was never confirmed. So when I went back on Wednesday and the doctor told me to avoid electrolytes and added protein to help my body bounce back, I was more than a little frustrated. No confirmation of rhabdo had been made, and by that point it was 3 days past the event and I figured that a visit to an MD would be pointless. But by that point, I was also beginning to think more clearly and think less about the pain. I started to get angry about how things had worked out, both on my end, and the end of my doctor.
The bottom line, and the overall lesson here folks, is that this isn't something to play around with, regardless of the confirmed diagnosis or not. I'll never know if I really had rhabdo or not, but regardless, I put myself in a situation that I really didn't need to be in. Thankfully my range of motion came back after about 4 days, but I was lucky. Not to mention, it cost me. In just two days I paid out about $400in doctor bills. Thankfully, I had spring break this week and was able to take the time to lounge and try to recover, but having a whole week off isn't something that people typically have the luxury of having.
I was also incredibly lucky that I didn't do more damage to myself by competing on the final day of sectionals. No competition is worth your health, and no competition is ever worth your life. As CrossFitters we always want to push that envelope, we always want to push ourselves and find our limits. But at the end of the day, we need to be smart. It's easy to be hard, but hard to be smart. We never want to quit, but as the old song goes, you got to know when to hold em, know when to fold em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. This situation was a time to walk away and I didn't. I risked a lot to compete in that competition. I'm proud of my spirit and I'm proud of the fact that I did hang in there, but I'm not happy with the fact that I put myself at some very serious risk.
In this situation, there were issues on both ends, both mine and my doctor's, but the bottom line is that there was no need for this to happen. I got VERY lucky, and I've learned in the future that it's not worth it. The pain I suffered this week was excrutiating, not to mention utterly embarassing and frustrating. I can't explain to you what it was like to have to ask our hostess at work to put my hair in a ponytail because I literally COULD NOT bend my arms enough. No competition is ever worth that. Please take my word for it and learn the lesson from me. Don't learn it the hard way like I did. I'm on the mend and I will hopefully be back to the box soon enough, but it was a risk that never should have been taken. It may be hard to be smart, but it's much better for you in the long run.
Know the signs... read more about rhabdo here.