Thursday, December 16, 2004

I sing the body decrepit

Time is catching up with me. Slowly, surely, the wear and tear of decades of playing hard mid-level tennis courted by flashes of brilliance and moments of divine intervention have come to collect the ferryman's toll. And it finds me gnashing and wailing.

About three years ago I was ready to receive serve in the ad court, made an ever so slight move forward to meet and blister a perfectly delivered backhand, when I heard and felt a pop from somewhere in my lower body, a pop that could be heard clear across the court. My next step sent me sprawling in a rolled mass of incredulous flesh as I tried to understand what was happening. It was my left calf muscle.

What felt at first like an errant tennis ball that had hit the back of my leg, was actually the group of muscles that make up the calf experiencing some kind of distress. These muscles are vital in the game of tennis. Everything springs from them: the propulsion for serving, the necessary combustion for setting the body into the proper position for tattooing ground strokes, the elevators for overhead putaways, the rockets that make passing shots break the sound barrier and kiss gravity somewhere inside the court beyond the reach of your windswept opponent.

Had the muscle somehow come off the bone? That was my first conscious thought as I dropped my racket and rolled onto my side reaching for the leg. The sound had been this muscle group tearing with a fierce ripping force. I went immediately into mild shock. My tennis partners all came rushing over as they had all heard the pop and thought I'd been shot. I was nauseous, unable to stand, lying on the painted green meadow of the court. I was helped to a bench. I heard myself cussing from somewhere far away.

After nearly an hour of sitting courtside while they continued on without me (tennis people are the cruelest folk on Earth and will play over your fuzz-encrusted carcass if they can get another set in), I found the hobbling balance required and drove home somehow. The nausea finally subsided. I began the long hours of icing and immobilization. The next morning, I could not set any weight on it at all. The ankle and foot had turned completely purple and black with pooled blood.
It was a bio-Picasso.

I played again within two months, but was tentative and cautious with it for a long time. It took well over a year before I could no longer feel the sore knots deep inside the muscle. Since then, I have re-torn different parts of it four times, in comparatively lesser degrees than the first, the latest and worst being about seven weeks ago. There is scarring deep in the muscle tissue, which over time, somehow crystallize into mineralized bands that become brittle and break. And it's a pisser.

While recovering from this latest tear, I was mending well and decided dancing was an option. No problem. But in favoring the left side, the right calf pulled just enough to say Howdy, glad to meet you! When one part of the body is impacted by injury, other parts set themselves at risk by foolishly compensating. This is what has happened. So, tonight at tennis, the right calf benched me for the next several weeks.

I have come to realize that in order to minimize or prevent this from being a chronic, continuing problem, I must begin cross training. My legs, my back, my body, my brain. I will have to seek professional guidance. Am I lacking in minerals, vitamins, potassium, electrolytes, alien DNA sufficient to keep my advancing decrepitude in check? Or is it just normal wear and tear and at fifty-two years of age these things will now be on the permanent weekly menu, sit down, quit whining, take your man pill and eat your medicine?

Do not go gently onto that brave court. I will spend the next few weeks learning what I can do to keep the timemaster at bay a little longer. Then I'll have to put into action what I've learned. Gone are the days when I can just stroll onto a tennis court, play for five hard hours with minimal warm-up, no stretching, and still go dancing later the same night as if I were immortal.

If these are the wages of spin, then I am a very lucky man.
It could be a whole lot worse.


Blogger joseph parried...

Thanks for that dear reminder, Allan. We are starstuff and there is some comfort in knowing that each time I look up into the night sky, I see my final retirement home.

December 17, 2004 1:03 PM  

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