Stop and Listen

by barbaragarn

Guest blog by Rob Jones. 

Your body is telling you something.

Repeating aches and pains are the language of injury. Take a moment and listen to my story. I’ve been playing goalie since I was 8 years old, which is now three decades in net. I have absolutely loved every minute of it, even the times when I felt lots of pain. Many shots were taken off the knee and thigh, one resulting in a fractured kneecap. The butt of a stick jabbed through my helmet that hit my eye, leaving a mark I still have today. The opposing forwards have run me over throughout the years. I have recovered from all of these maladies, except one. 

About five years ago, I had a harebrained scheme to get new goalie pads that would allow me to cover more of the bottom of the net.  Anyone who knows me or has seen me play knows I don’t necessarily have any type of style, unless flopping like a fish is considered a goaltending style. Nevertheless, it worked for me. My scheme led me to purchase a set of hybrid goalie pads, after using traditional pads my entire life. This began my hybrid/butterfly career, but I laugh aloud at the statement because I am about the worst butterfly goalie around. Absolutely no smooth style in me. I still flop, albeit a little less in my advancing years. 

I was a player who would play everyday if I could, sometimes twice in a day. I played back-to-back games quite a bit and subbed everywhere I could. Three years ago, near the end of the season, was when my issues began. My hips hurt, and they never had before. It wasn’t just general pain, it was sharp and debilitating. During the AHA playoffs, I barely finished our three games and my performance was lacking. I took a few weeks off and the pain subsided. Didn’t think much of it.

The next season, the pain returned in a general form. Slight pain week to week, but it would go away when I didn’t play. Again I figured, “Well, getting older, pain will be normal.” I’d take some Ibuprophen and be fine. Sometimes I’d be taking four to six at a time, but not very often. It turned into taking the painkiller prior to playing as a preventative measure. But I then stopped after a couple months. 

Towards the end of that 2008-2009 season, the hips were acting up again. As I reflect, yeah…they felt worse. I played the season out, packed some Icy Hot in my bag and used before games. Made it feel better, but what it truly did was mask what my body was telling me. The more I played, the worse my situation was getting and I was not listening, not wanting to hear what my body had to say. I did take some time off, but continued to play and basically accepted the pain.

My 2009-2010 season was actually a good one. I felt as though I managed the pain well, and didn’t have any lasting effects. Sure, I was sore for a day or so after playing, but isn’t everyone? Again, I was negotiating in my head my stubbornness to keep playing instead of listening to my hips screaming at me. “My life without playing goalie? Are you kidding me? UNACCEPTABLE! The more I play will make it feel better. “  I did make it through the season alright, and my stats made me feel good even if I felt bad. My stats ok’d me to keep playing. But, the little voice inside my head got me to at least go to the doctor to have it all checked out. Had a few x-rays and I was diagnosed with severe bursitis in both hips. Doc says, rest a bit, take these and call me in the morning (or two weeks). Meds didn’t work, but I kept playing.

The 2010-2011 season came. It began with some hip pain, but not anything more than I was used to. “Hey, I managed it the season before…so what’s the big deal, right?” I kept playing, and subbed games…not many issues. The season went by and we were in the playoffs again. The playoffs went by with us not winning a game, although I played well. And then something happened. Not a point of injury. Not a specific incident. All of a sudden my hips really began hurting. I don’t remember the day. I don’t remember the time. But they hurt and they hurt badly. I couldn’t sleep. I could barely walk. 

A guy I have worked with for the past seven years has had both hips replaced. He knows my hip pain stories and had repeatedly told me to see an orthopedic surgeon–more specifically, his surgeon. He insisted I get the diagnosis for what was truly going on. Deep down, I knew what was going on but didn’t want to know. But finally this past Monday, I went to see Dr. Hartmann. 

I arrived for my 9 a.m appointment, sat for a bit and was called in. No height or weight measurements… they just ask you. Those aren’t the important info anyone needs to know this day. I got in for x-rays right away. I had to stand for one with my feet apart about 20 inches and my hips were sore. My next x-ray was done lying down on the table, on my back. My left hip was really shooting out some pain for that one as I needed to spread my knees apart as far as possible to rotate my hips outwards.

The doctor came in. He was pleasant and got right down to business. Everything I thought of is basically what was going on. I have what is termed as a “goalie injury,” along with arthritis in my hip. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the worst, I was at an 8. I have severe arthritis to the point that I no longer have any cartilage in either hip. I also have a very large bone spur on the outside of each hip joint, which is causing the pains in my hips when I try to move laterally or shoot my leg out sideways to make a save. 

I’m 38 years old… too young for this! Alas, teenaged goalies are needing hip surgeries these days. Dr. Hartmann noted that he had done former Gopher goalie Steve DeBus’ surgery for him a few years ago. 

So what do I need? Something called hip resurfacing. Doesn’t sound horrible… but it’s not the greatest story I’ve ever heard either. The surgery actually shaves bone off from  the head of your femur and grinds out your hip joint. When they do that, they then place a stainless steel cap on the top of your femur (anchored into the bone) and a receiving cap in the hip joint.

Wow…so I can become Steve Austin! 

Well, no. Not exactly. The surgery is amazingly an outpatient one and I can go home the same day! But, I am restricted from high-impact activities (like hockey) for 6-12 months. The good news? I can play goalie again without pain. I can live day to day without pain. The bad news? The caps they implant only last 10-15 years, so this will need to be done again, and again……and AGAIN. 

So, word to everyone out there…goalie or not. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY. It may be trying to tell you something.