On April 22nd at 6:30 p.m. I will participate in a panel discussion in Cambridge, Mass., with our son Todd and Tom Brady's (the quarterback's) dad, possibly his mom. Our son Todd, along with his older brother, were the subjects of my book published last April entitled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. The subject of the discussion will be, "Parenting Elite Athletes."
I'm sure that somewhere in the discussion the topic of injuries will arise, particularly injuries in the pros, where jobs are at stake. Although I am not in that category, I would like to relate my recent experience with a back injury.
I am a grandmother who works fairly hard to stay in shape. I have played on a tennis team at a rather high level for twenty years. We compete all around South Palm Beach County, Florida, from September till the middle of May. I have worked out at a fitness center twice a week for the same number of years, and I play golf twice a week. Seven days a week I am running off to compete or exercise, including four-mile walks with my husband. I live to play sports, which are a huge component of my life, along with my family and writing/ marketing my book. Many of our current friendships today were made on the courts.
When my mother was in her eighties, she suffered from osteoporosis, then dislocated and herniated discs. Her will power enabled her to exercise faithfully for three months in a pool. This was a godsend, which kept her free of surgery till she was ninety. At that time, she cracked a vertebra, and the angioplasty (gluing procedure) which had worked for my father, unfortunately, had unforeseen consequences for my mother. After a piece of vertebra fractured off into the spinal column during the angioplasty, she sustained two emergency surgeries and could not regain her strength. Ninety-two days after entering the hospital for the first operation, she passed away.
I have just experienced my first back problem, and it is purely a result of my mother's genes. Fortunately, I don't have osteoporosis, but I have a herniated and dislocated disc which has put me out of action for five weeks already.
When people say they experience back pain from stenosis or sciatica, I now know what they are suffering. The back is so fragile, and yet we put so much pressure on it with large purses, carrying books, cartons, children, and grandchildren, etc. We do not lift with our legs, but instead use our back. Women's heels put the back at an unnatural angle. I have learned that any treatment for the back is a matter of TIME and exercise, and the mending cannot be rushed.
I refused cortisone shots (a stopgap measure, in my view, and dangerous if too many) and stopped all activity. I entered five weeks of physical therapy; I wore a brace; I used a heating pad and always wore (and still do) sneakers for support. In order to sleep with the pain going down my leg, I bought a hard, contoured foam pillow to put between my legs to keep my spine straight. I swam laps five-six days/week. And I succumbed to taking an anti-inflammatory pill for one week, before I discontinued it because of warnings about stroke, cardio-vascular disease, and bleeding ulcerations.
Did I have withdrawal symptoms while I couldn't play team tennis? NO! I was too busy swimming laps in the pool; reading books I had piled up for months; and starting to organize the writing of my second manuscipt. I actually loved the time off from the treadmill. Of course, I'm counting down the days till I step back on the court, but it will be a friendly social tennis game, not a competitive match. The matches will return eventually. One thing I've learned: you can't rush the mending of your body. Oh yes, I learned another thing: to get off the treadmill and do some things you've put on your "bucket list."