Guest writer: Rachael Hands

WORLD EXCLUSIVE

Our latest guest writer is Rachael Hands, just coming off a nasty knee injury, queen of the pre-skate snacks and happily a new classmate of mine on Friday nights. This story makes me wince in all sorts of bad ways … and I fully intend to privately find out the identity of the “Melbourne Ice player” in question. Rachael, you’ve been warned.

Hi, I’m Rachael and I’m a basiphobic*.

By Rachael Hands

Hi, I’m Rachael and I’m a basiphobic*.

Like any good Rookie, I’m self-diagnosed of course… Oh, and according to http://www.webmd.com, I’m also traumatophobic, which feeds into my basiphobia. This makes me more anxious and then ultimately leads to me falling on my butt during hockey lessons anyway!

Simply put, I’m attempting to be an ice hockey player with a pretty serious fear of falling over and hurting myself badly. Again.

Back in August 2011, on Tuesday the 16th to be precise, I was skating up and down the Henke rink at the Icehouse during a regular hockey lesson when CRUNCH! I hit the ice. Me being me when I fell, didn’t do things by halves either. I hit the ice very hard and very awkwardly with my knees taking all of the impact first. It was less than a split second after the initial crack of the protective gear meeting the ice that I heard the popping and crackling in my left knee, then felt this weird sucking sensation as I skidded with surprising grace (as if I meant to look like a falling tonne of bricks with arms and legs) on plastic shin guards (sans socks!) through centre ice. Having been rushed at full-tilt by a professional Melbourne Ice player I panicked, not trusting his ability to stop before he got to me; then I hesitated about getting out of his way so as not to hurt him and our chances of winning a back-to-back Goodall Trophy. The rather serious result of those normally inconsequential actions was little newbie me crashing onto the ice like a sack of potatoes. The bizarre noises and feeling in my knee joint was my Medial Collateral Ligament being torn clean in half.

That was in the first 12 minutes of the 60-minute lesson. I still had 48 minutes of ice time and I was damn well going to use them! I got up, adrenaline coursing through my veins, and with some kind of misguided steely resolve I laughed the fall off and the subsequent pain I was in to skate out the rest of the session. Admittedly when I look back on it, I didn’t just have a ‘lazy leg’ as I skated around that night, I actually couldn’t lift it. I couldn’t bend it and I didn’t do terribly much weight-bearing on it either. I glided through the rest of the session in a mass of throbbing agony. The following day (when the inside of my knee was almost the size of a grapefruit and purple) I took myself to see Nick M, my regular physio who has treated almost every injury I’ve ever obtained through the playing of sport. He had yet to see me for a hockey injury, even though I’d been in classes for a term and a bit and evidently doing well by my coordination standards! I don’t remember much of the session other than he lifted my bad leg up from the table and I cried like a baby because it hurt that much. He hadn’t even put any stress on the joint! Nick immediately ordered an MRI and it confirmed the worst-case scenario. My MCL was totally ruptured and would require the most intense rehabilitation and physiotherapy I had ever experienced in order to heal.

What followed, without giving you another blow-by-blow account, was five and a half months in a hinged leg brace, firstly locked dead straight for three months then little by little I was given a few degrees of flex in the knee joint until a second MRI revealed the knitting of the MCL was complete. After that, it was intense physical therapy (progressing from daily appointments to now once a week) to learn to reengage the MCL and the surrounding muscles correctly to prevent re-injury. I literally had to learn to walk before I could run, let alone skate! Which brings me back to my fears of falling over and hurting myself again.

I arrived at my (clearly very accurate) phobiæ diagnosis one ridiculously hot January afternoon in Nick M’s sweltering treatment room. I was being run through a series of stress tests on my knee to determine whether I was going to be able to return to skating in the foreseeable future. It dawned on me that as much as I had been bugging the indeterminably patient Nick to let me back out onto the ice since my ‘limbed bag of flour’ impression; I was actually (and very secretly) incredibly terrified of falling over and making the existing injury worse. So, like any good gen-y’er, I went straight home to google what the fear of falling was, coupled with a fear of injury and arrived at a mild case of basiphobia (a fear of walking and or falling down) and traumatophobia which is other wise known as the fear of significant injury.

I am happy to report to you, the readers of Nicko Place’s blog, that while my knee has healed to the point where my physio has begrudgingly given me his blessing to continue my hockey lessons and join a summer league team, my fear of falling and hurting myself gets more intense every week.

As the drills get harder, the edgework more extreme and the general pace of lessons increases, my fears escalate in an uncanny correlation. Since finally getting back onto the ice regularly in February of this year, I can see how far I’ve come. In a lesson at NLHA last week, I felt some complete control over my skating again. My legs were really solid underneath me and I loved every minute of it! I felt good on the ice and not like I was struggling as usual, but that pervasive nagging thought about falling and hurting myself so badly all over again kept eating away at me. For many hockey Rookies, the fear of falling and or hurting themselves disappears with confidence in their own abilities. For me though, it’s a struggle to talk myself into the fact that my knee can handle it. I still baulk at the superman/sliding drills or anything requiring me to put all of my weight on my ‘bad leg’ while it’s bent at any angle greater than straight. My coaches have been patient and very understanding but I sometimes wonder whether or not I can teach myself to ignore those feelings. So far though, such attempts have proven to be fruitless. Practising falling over on ice so I get used to it again requires discipline I just don’t (want to) have. I’d rather spend the precious little time for hockey I have available to me trying to gain some more of that elusive control on my outside edges, crossovers and joining the infamous Martin Kutek-led  ‘underpoosh’ revolution. Surely, if I practise those skills enough then I don’t need to think about forcing myself to fall over? I’ll be good enough not to, right? Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

But, I’ve resolved (very publicly today) that for the coming term (intermediate classes at the Icehouse in addition to another round at NLHA) I will not let my fears get the best of me. I will skate and if I fall, so be it. I won’t try to fight it and stay upright; I will just go with momentum, following the quickest route straight on to the ice (a mantra coach Joey Hughes likes to drill into me every week). The only thing for me to do in order to get over the irrationality and anxiety about falling and potential re-injury, is to bite the bullet and just trust myself and of course the work that Nick the Physio has done with my knee to get me back to a point where I CAN skate. I simply have to jump in, skates first and the fear of falling be damned. That, and remember to enjoy learning to map the shortest distance down on to the ice from wherever I may be on the rink!

An intense fear of jumping is called ‘catapedophobia’ by the way… I’m just saying! 😉

*well, sort of…

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