I used to play competitive softball.  Yeah, I know, that sounds like an oxymoron, but this shit was intense.  Our team had a tour bus and we’d drive all over the Midwest to drink cases of beer at night, then shake off hangovers to face the best of the best.

Our home field was in Rockford, IL, but our weekends took us to Detroit, Minneapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, St. Louis and many points in between.  Most of our team was made up of ex-minor league or college baseball players.  I played shortstop, and we won a ton of tournaments.

One summer we drove 6 hours to play in the USSSA Regional tournament in Louisville with 69 other teams.  It was double-elimination and even if you didn’t lose, you still had to win 6 games in two days, and that’s exactly what we did.

We were called the Shockers, and we absolutely rolled through the bracket that weekend winning every game by 10 runs or more.  Everything was clicking.  In the semi-final, I took a throw at 2nd base to turn a double play and felt something go wrong with a finger.  I pulled my glove away and the ring finger on my left hand fell limp.  It didn’t hurt but was clearly jacked up.  I thought it was dislocated so I jammed it back into socket.

While we waited for the next game, my finger started to swell.  It was hard to put on the glove and even tougher to hold a bat, but I played the and celebrated a regional championship.  We boarded the bus with our big trophy and headed home with about 5 cases of beer, many of which went in my belly to subdue the pain in my finger.

By the time we got home it was midnight, and I had been sleeping for the last hour.  My entire hand was swollen, but I was so tired, I didn’t really care.  By morning it was the size of a softball.

I went into an Immediate Care type joint where the “doctor” took some x-rays and concluded it was sprained.  He gave me a splint that reminded me of a Popsicle stick and I was on my way.  By the end of that day I was pounding Advil and icing the shit out of my “sprained” finger.

This went on for about a week until I decided something was seriously wrong.  I drove to the emergency room and by great fortune one of Rockford’s best orthopedic surgeons was on shift.  He took x-rays and came back in with a very long face and said, “We need to get into surgery as soon as possible.  Like tomorrow!  You have a torn tendon and a shattered knuckle!”

I was like, holy fuck.  No wonder this hurts so bad.

We scheduled surgery for that week and I coped with the pain.  Then he called and told me we’d have to push it back a few days.  Then a week.  And another week.  I didn’t flop on the operating table for nearly 4 weeks after the injury and to make a very long story short, my tendon had atrophied to a point that I still have a curl in that finger.  It works and doesn’t hold me back from much, but there has been a constant, subtle nagging ever since.

I was never a big fan of doctors and that was the nail in the coffin.  That was probably 15 years ago and I have only been to the doctor a couple times since then.  Once for a broken foot, the other for something I can’t remember.  I just don’t trust them much and feel like illness is something we innately understand.

Back in college I had a business professor from London.  He used to rant and rave about American health care and offered this in defense of socialized medicine.

“You see, if someone goes into the doctor’s office in England with the sniffles, the bloody doctor will kick him in the behind and tell him to go drink some fluids.  They don’t put up with psychosomatic illness.”

That always resonated with me, especially several years later when I watched my grandmother squander a small fortune on pills over the last 5 years of her life.  Her doctors literally turned her into a junkie.  She’d sit at the dinner table pulling out pill after and I wondered when she would be healed.

It never happened, of course, and eventually she fell prey to years of poison.  A sad ending to one of the most caring people I’ve ever met.

Grandma was also depressed at the end, and who wouldn’t be when your nutrition comes from a pill box?  The older I get, the more I realize that it’s okay to be depressed.  People get depressed.  The problem is, we don’t realize that sad can be a good thing.  It’s telling us something.  But society wants it to mean everyone is fucked up.

This is one of many reasons I am strongly opposed to health care as we know it.  One misleading “study” after another is broadcast like gospel from any media outlet that can get their hands on it.

“It’s gold, Jerry!”

My theory on health has always been pretty simple.  Pain is your friend.

If something seems wrong, change it.  If you are tired all the time, cut back on sugar and coffee, exercise and eat lighter foods.  If you’re cold, move around and eat something that burns hotter in your body.  If you have a fever, rest and let it work its way out.  If you drank 12 beers last night, it will probably affect how you feel for the next several days.  Just because your head hurts, doesn’t mean you need surgery or “meds” that will make you more dehydrated.

These are the kinds of things I always try to remember with endurance training.  We’re always on the verge of extreme dehydration, so I drink more fluids than I think I need.  I never underestimate rest and recovery.  I focus on the cause of my nagging injury, not just the symptom.

I stay in the moment.  I visualize success.  I keep the faith.

In short, I think about the body and mind as one, and rarely trust someone who wants to give me drugs.  Oh, and if I think I broke a bone, or something more serious, I go to the emergency room.



You Know As Much As Your Doctor