Note from the author: this is a lengthy blog, so if you are among those who prefer to consume your information in 140-character chunks you can see the tl;dr conclusion of this post by skipping to the last paragraph. However, if you're so inclined, please read along, this particular topic is personal and I felt it warranted some depth. Commence narrative:
I have been weighing a pretty tough decision over the last couple months. Let's step into the Throwback Thursday time machine and travel to last November, right around Thanksgiving to be specific. It was that week that the pain in my right shoulder started to present. This wasn't the run of the mill soreness you experience after stringing together a couple of tough training sessions, instead it was more akin to a white hot ice pick being driven into the front of my shoulder. At the time I was preparing for a weightlifting competition and following a program that focused solely on the snatch, clean and jerk, and squats. I figured I tweaked something, maybe sprained it at worst. After all, the workouts that Armen had written for me were designed to drive adaptation by way of heavy lifts at high percentages of my maxes, so it would make sense if I landed incorrectly while fatigued.
The weightlifting meet in early January came and went. I did alright, it was nothing to write home about, but the competitive nature of the sport hooked me and I wanted to do better the next time around. Within a two week span at the beginning of the year I had moved out, competed at the meet and attended a 3-day weekend seminar about barbell training. I was pretty drained and my shoulder had gotten into the habit of protesting, loudly I might add, whenever I tried to snatch. A couple weeks off from serious training would fresh the mind and heal the body, right? Wrong. I began to think that maybe my shoulder was impinged and needed to be worked on by a professional, so I sought some active release therapy which provided relief until I got back to lifting. I tried a number of other things on my own as well - name any K-Star shoulder mobility video and I've probably seen it. Despite all of these efforts nothing worked and the pain, which subsided almost entirely, would flare right back up whenever I tried to snatch heavy or zip a softball across the diamond during a game.
After six months of trying everything I could think of I decided that it was time for a look at the inside of my shoulder. I met with an orthopedic doctor at Glendale Adventist who confirmed that since I had not healed on my own in several months an MRI would be helpful in revealing the problem. A week later another doctor pumped my shoulder full of fluid to distend the joint, then I was strapped into the tubular MRI machine that made dubstep sounds for about thirty minutes. Pro tip: the classical music they usually play for you during an MRI is a really bad reference for time, you may want to choose another genre that will help you differentiate ten minutes from ten hours.
I was due to have my follow-up with the doctor a week later, but my mom works at Adventist and knows the head radiologist so she was able to get the report in advance of my appointment. I'll never forget the feeling in my stomach when she read the results to me over the phone. My mom isn't a doctor, so wasn't familiar with the technical jargon that was on the print out: Infraspinatus, supraspinatus, moderate tear... Biceps tendon, mild to moderate tendinosis... Superior labral tear, anterier to posterior... I thought that my shoulder, and arm by extension, were total losses. I was pretty upset because I knew that this type of damage doesn't heal on its own.
I decided to get a second opinion on the scan and went to the Kerlan-Jobe clinic knowing that their sports medicine physicians are some of the best in the nation. The doctor I saw there really put things into perspective and he pointed out that my shoulder looked normal for someone who played baseball for most of their life - apparently, throwing a ball isn't something humans were designed to do and, while you can do it with relative safety, it does cause deterioration of the rotator cuff and labrum. The doctor went on to say that I probably had the damage for years and thought the weightlifting, which puts a lot of stress on the biceps tendon and labrum, was what brought everything to light. In addition to this he explained some of the finer points on how the joint worked relative to throwing and weightlifting and suggested six weeks of physical therapy. Fair enough, it made perfect sense to try a remedy that didn't involve cutting me open first anyways.
A month and a half later the head therapist discharged me saying that I have 99% ability and should not have surgery. It was true, I could do just about anything I wanted, my shoulder didn't balk at me when I went to wash the car or clean the bathroom. However, the 1% of things that I cannot do pain free include throwing and snatching. I'll point out that I have never, nor will ever have the chance to do either of these things professionally. As much as I wanted to play baseball at a higher level I just wasn't talented enough to make it on a collegiate team and I was a little late to the weightlifting party, getting involved at the ripe age of 26...
I took some time to sort out what I wanted to do and ultimately opted to have surgery to repair the damage. I have one life and I want to use my arm to throw and lift for as long as I can. It also helps that my day job has a great insurance plan. The reason for doing this is pretty simple and it focuses on the two sports I mentioned above. Every time I put on my glove and play catch I become the twelve year old kid who wanted nothing more in life than to play under the big lights and make the Web Gems segment on Baseball Tonight. I'm just not ready to give that feeling up. As for weightlifting, I believe that I can compete locally and do pretty well if I stay healthy. I'm a goal oriented person and I need something on the horizon to chase otherwise I'll lose my mind.
So, on Tuesday, November 18th, a surgeon will be putting my shoulder back together. I'm not looking forward to the protracted rehab time which can take upwards of six months before full functionality of the joint, but I know that this is a step that I have to take given the things I want to be able to do with my life. I'll be taking a couple days off from coaching but I expect to be back in full swing (with my arm in a sling!) the following week. Keep a look out for a video of my first comeback pull-up in a couple months!
TBT: that time when I played in our high school championship game at Angel Stadium!
5 rounds of:
AMRAP 3 minutes
3 power cleans (135/95)
6 push ups
9 air squats
rest 1 minute between rounds
Posted by Commish