Friday, February 26, 2010

One of those lists

I'm home, sick today.  Therefore, I think I'll find myself working through this.  I know it's a good list because it has the sneezing panda cub on it.

The joy of women's hockey

I am watching the women's hockey Olympic gold medal game.

After a few years of not watching hockey because I wasn't playing, I am starting up again.  I went to a Sharks vs. Blackhawks game and couldn't believe how great it was to be back.  And now in the Olympics I am watching not just great hockey and great hockey players (Hayley Wickenheiser is still playing!) but a different kind of women's hockey.

There are different rules for men and women, and they can be very obviously sexist.  Women must wear full face protection (cage or full shield) to protect our faces.  We could say that full facial protection is really smart, citing men who have lost their teeth or their eyesight, but if it's that smart, why do only women have to protect their faces?  Men can wear full cages, too, but it's their option.

Men can check; women can't.  It's against the rules for a woman to bodycheck another woman player.  Because we're so delicate; because it's not ladylike.  There can be no other reason.  There is nothing about the differences between men's and women's anatomy that would cause checking to be unsafe for women but safe for men.  The result is that women are denied a tool of the game.  It's like saying women who play softball aren't allowed to tag a player to get an out.

In this game, however, the refs are letting the players be physical.  They aren't calling checks.  I'm seeing bodychecks, and the announcers are seeing them.  In the second period, Caihow just checked a player ... and got a high sticking penalty.  The game may get out of hand, as it does with men, if the physical play goes beyond what is safe (and to hockey players and viewers it is possible to see that point), and the refs do risk this if they don't start calling bodychecking, but please let these women play all-out.

I played in a game once where we started checking and the refs let it go.  The game did not get out of hand.  The experience was remarkable, having that extra tool.  Not to mention that the endorphin high gets even higher.

Third period: The American defense looks sloppy; the Canadians are playing superbly.  It's slightly less physical (I wonder if the teams were warned the teams during the intermission).  The American offense is sloppy, too.  They are losing too many faceoffs.  And why aren't they cycling?  They need to keep the puck moving in the offensive zone, keep the Canadian defense on their toes, keep the goalie moving.  Instead they just pass it to an open person for a shot, but the entire Canadian team is in position and ready for it.

I'm rooting for a good game, and right now the score is apparently close -- only 2-0 Canada -- but the game seems tilted toward the Canadians.  They seem to be comfortably in the lead.  The nice thing about the US winning would be the boost to women's hockey's status in the US.  I don't see the US coming back from 2-0, though.

The American defense is falling apart, chasing the puck.  The American goalie is the only reason this game is close right now, and she is playing with incredibly cool poise.  Both goalies are incredibly impressive.

The intensity of the final minute and Canadian win in the Vancouver arena is incredible.  The body language of the defeated Americans reminds me of the Russians after the Miracle on Ice.  I wish more people could appreciate this amazing sport.  I wish I had more opportunities to watch women play at this level of skill.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A shot of adrenaline

I got the cortisone shot!  Now I lay low for two days, letting my hip heal, and then my mobility will return to normal.

It was like smelling the ice: old memories.  I have seen so many orthopedists and have had so much physical therapy that I know the drill about how these exams work.  The number of times I have had someone bend my knee and rotate my hip to see where the pain is is probably in the hundreds.

And I like my orthopedist.  He showed me my x-rays, showed me some calcification on my hip joint that might at some point cause me discomfort.  Calcification is normal and can happen any time.  I bet I've had it forever: I calcify slowly.  I know this because I had to be in a sling for 11 weeks after I broke my collarbone.  It healed so slowly that I was scheduled for surgery.

And then he said that I needed a cortisone shot for my trochanteric bursitis.  Music to my ears.

That he is competent and intelligent and has a decent personality and respects that I ask technical questions about physiology means that, after 10 years in the wilderness, I finally have found a good orthopedist.

My first orthopedist was Arthur Ting -- orthopedist to, among others, Barry Bonds.  I went to him with my first hip injury because he was the Sharks' doctor, and I knew he wouldn't tell me I was crazy to be playing hockey.  He was aggressive with treatment and had a relationship with the best physical therapists.  Back then, he took insurance.

Then he switched to taking only cash, and I was adrift in orthopedic land.  I lost the name of the doctor who gave me my first cortisone shot for trochanteric bursitis, but I had a crush on him.  I had an evil doctor, Jeffrey Mann, when I blew out my knee.  He was a bad physician (over-immobilized me, didn't let me start physical therapy early enough, didn't give me anything for the pain -- and didn't realize that the pain was coming from the fact that I was over-immobilized) as well as an asshole.  As I sat in the waiting room listening to him berate either a patient or a member of his staff, I asked the receptionist if he was like that with everyone, and she gave me a terrified nod.

So now I have a doctor whom I trust, someone who will put me back together when I injure myself again.  It's a sign.  It's time to be an athlete again.  I emailed a student from the doctor's office to say I might be late for a meeting because I was being seen for a skiing injury.  Her response: "I just saw the doctor for a snowboarding injury."  Athletic injuries give you instant credibility.

Two days of rest, and then I'm going to get a plan in place.  Not hockey yet, but soon.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Adrenaline junkie, limping along

I'm limping around now with my latest orthopedic injury.  It's been a while since I've hurt myself being athletic, and it's fun to revisit the orthopedic stomping grounds, so to speak.

Last month, I went to Boulder for my brother's wedding reception, and eight of us piled into two cars and drove to Keystone.

Need I say it was great to be back in the snow?  For five days, I had so much fun with this group of people, plus kids, that I didn't even have a second to consider writing my excitement down.

It's been many, many years since I've skied.  Boots, poles, skis, gloves, jacket -- I love gear-based sports.  I know myself, that I am like a newborn calf on the first three runs, totally unable to point my legs in the right direction, and then I'm fine.

At Keystone, it took me one run to remember how to turn.  And turn I did ... into a maniac!  I realized that (a) I am not in as bad shape as I thought I was, and (b) having become a reasonably good hockey player since I last skied, I have a much greater understanding of using my feet and legs to edge and turn.  Oh, and (c) I am an adrenaline junkie.

I'd forgotten the last, but boy did that come back, too.  Adrenaline is why I love hockey. Primarily, my adrenaline high comes off of speed: I love skiing really fast.  So I found myself throwing myself down the mountain on just this side of control, lightheaded from altitude and asthma.  I am a really aggressive skier.

I managed to get to the backside of Keystone, to the incomparable, endless Starfire run, which since I had last been there (and since last week, apparently) has turned from blue to black.  In California there would be no question it's black.  Starfire is where my legs started to burn.  On the final, icy, steepist pitch I rested, saying aloud, "If I'm going to injure myself today, it's going to be right here."  My cousin, Steve N., said, "You could take it slowly."  Even now I laugh at that one.

I did take it slowly, take it to the bottom, and announce that it was my last run of the day.  I may be an adrenaline junkie, but I also know when to stick a fork in me.  Of course, to get off the mountain we had to go back up and then down the front.  I chose a green run for the way down.  A long way down.  As I stopped to periodically rest my burning legs, I was so wiped I would just fall over sideways.  On a nearly horizontal surface.  Really a lame way to fall.

A hundred yards from the bottom, I looked ahead and saw my brother and cousin waiting.  And ran over my ski pole.  Also a lame way to fall, but a much more dramatic one.

While the east coast has been blanketed in snow, and California has had El Nino rain, this part of Colorado has been very cold and very dry.  All day, we were skiing on hardpack with the occasional ice.  So when I skied over my pole, I landed very, very hard.  First on my butt, and then my head whacked the snow.  Arms and legs and skis tangled up, sliding down the hill, trying to protect my knees as I managed to get my twisting skis below me.  I lay there gaining my bearings and shouted "I'm all right" to the passing skiers.

Steve N. swooped down from above, did a perfect hockey stop, snowed me, and said, "Are you all right?" before realizing the person he had accidentally snowed was not a stranger.  We had a great laugh at that moment.

My brother had made me wear a helmet, so my head was protected, although it really just felt like I'd hit my head on the inside of a helmet.  I wondered aloud if I was going to pull a Natasha Richardson.  I also wondered aloud if I'd broken my hip.

Since I survived the following day, my head was in the clear, although I had quite a case of whiplash.  It all comes back to the hip.  While if I had actually broken my hip I would definitely be walking like a newborn calf, since that day I've been in pain.  Last week, I took a long walk, and the next day I couldn't put weight on my leg.  I have diagnosed myself with trochanteric bursitis, and I know what I need: a cortisone shot.

I love cortisone shots.  I've had uncountable shots ... probably uncountable because if I did count them I'd be disappointed at how few I've had.  Hip, knee, elbow ... knee more than once.  I love them because they feel so good.  Really, the part I like is the lidocaine they put in it.  Because it would be incredibly painful to inject a bunch of fluid into an already fluid-filled, inflamed area, lidocaine is added to enable the shot to be self-numbing.  You feel this pressure and this internal coolness -- and the pain goes away!

And then you have to take it easy for 48 hours, and you can feel smug, because professional athletes get cortisone shots all the time, and you've had to get one for an athletic injury.

I have a referral to an orthopedist. My primary care physician seemed to think that I might not get a cortisone shot.  Certainly, for non-professional athletes doctors like to try gentler approaches first ... like months of physical therapy.  I am going to fight for that shot.  Adrenaline and corticosteroids: aren't they just two sides of the same coin?

Friday, February 5, 2010

Eating like a grown-up

Being single, with no kids, I don't have to think about meals that please anyone but myself.  The other night I had quite the feast.  Out with a friend for a drink, we snacked on herbed fries and some sort of aioli, and I had a half pint of Red Tail Ale.  That was really filling.

When I got home, I wasn't motivated to make dinner, and I didn't have much to work with that could have offset the carbo-grease of the first part of my meal, so I ate two Pop Tarts.  In fact, my friend, A., called  while I was working my way through the first one, and when I told her what I was doing she asked if I was OK.  A. knows that Pop Tarts are my comfort food: a few weeks ago I sat on her couch, miserable, unable to eat anything but a box of Pop Tarts.  Her favorite flavor is strawberry, so that's what I'd picked up then, and that's what I was eating the other night, albeit a fresh box.

Those Pop Tarts were really sweet.  So I finished my meal with Annie's Cheddar Bunnies.

To recap, dinner was:
  • Beer and fries
  • Pop Tarts
  • Cheddar Bunnies.
I was so proud of myself.  If kids only knew that when you grow up you can eat whatever you want.

[Pause to digest....]

The next day, I stopped at Whole Foods on the way home and picked up an apple-butternut squash soup, and I assembled a huge salad.  I know we are supposed to eat a certain number of fruits and vegetables per day.  Do we have to do it on a per day basis?  That salad was probably a several days' worth of vegetables.  Huge.  Awesome.

Tonight, after having two servings of salad for lunch, I stopped to get another one.  I call them super-protein salads.  In addition to the lettuce (I love lettuce), tomatoes, celery, cucumbers, I add egg, tuna, garbanzo beans, kidney beans, edamame, and cheese.

Seriously, in the past two days I probably have eaten the recommended daily amount of vegetables for a whole week.  Does that count?

That's why I call it eating like a grown-up.  We can eat whatever we want.  We can follow our cravings. And it's awesome when our cravings lead us to these massive salads.