Tag Archives: pain

Absorbing Hits And Falling Down

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In my “Kids Need To Get Hurt” post I argued that in order to deal with pain kids need to experience pain, but I rarely argue a stance without providing what I think is a possible solution to the problem.

First, we need to state the problem and here is what I think the problem is:

Kids need to be protected from pain and injury but still have fun doing what they love to do

Here is my problem with the above problem – it is impossible to protect anyone from everything. Since the ground is hard and solid enough to support a person’s weight, it is also hard and solid enough to cause injury if a person falls onto it. Since we can’t get protect children against the laws of physics we must work with the laws.

Here is my solution to the protect children from injury while letting them have fun problem:

Kids need to learn how to absorb impacts to lessen their chance of injury while still having fun doing what they love to do

Since we cannot take protection to the logical extreme of placing all children in padded rooms and forcing them to use virtual presence devices to interact with people outside of their padded rooms, we should be teaching children how to fall down safely.

I officiate every age level of lacrosse and very few players know how to fall down properly. When they get hit or trip themselves up they instinctively reach out with their arms. Unfortunately, this action causes them to fracture fingers, forearms, elbows, and collarbones. A straightened arm is a rigid structure with very little “give”. The players who don’t straighten out an arm to brace for impact don’t do anything at all, and they hit the ground with a sickening thud, which whiplashes their head into the ground. Now they are dealing with spine, neck, and cranial injuries along with a potential concussion.

All because no one ever taught them how to override their natural instincts when falling down.

I spent six years training in Gracie Jiu-Jitsu and Muay Thai Kickboxing to learn how to better defend myself. What may surprise many people is that most self-defense classes start with the lesson on how to fall down if someone pushes you over. The reasoning is simple: it is very hard to defend yourself if you get pushed over and smack the back of your head against the concrete. You’ll be dazed, and unable to prevent the coming beating. In order to avoid this scenario, self-defense classes teach individuals how to hit the ground hard without impacting their head with a high amount of force.

The video below explains how to perform a break fall when hit from the front, and how to perform a roll through when hit from behind or the sides. If players practice these moves on a padded surface enough times, they will develop muscle memory that will kick in if they get hit or tripped on the lacrosse field. I played for ten years and I hit the ground a lot, but I never sustained serious injuries because I knew how to roll through contact with the ground and pop right back up.

A key point to remember about these techniques – You will get hurt when you perform them on a hard surface. That is the point. Your entire body will hurt and be extremely sore, but the one part of your body that will be almost unaffected is your head.

I believe the above video is one potential solution to the problem of kids getting hurt playing a contact sport. They may still get hurt performing a break fall or a roll through, but their chances of getting seriously injured are lessened as the force from the impact is dissipated over their entire body and not on their head or extremities.

We can’t keep protecting kids from everything that may hurt them. What we can do is responsibly teach them that there are dangerous things out in the world and how to deal with them.


My Tough Mudder

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Mud Covered Shoes

Mud Covered Shoes

I competed in the most physically challenging event of my life on Sunday – the Georgia Tough Mudder. This event lived up to it’s billing as Tough with a capital “T”. I got cold, wet, muddy, dirty, sprayed with a fire hose, rope burned from cargo nets, and electrocuted during the Tough Mudder.

I started off in the 10:00am group with about 300 other Mudders. After a rousing rendition of the National Anthem, and reciting the Tough Mudder Pledge we were sent on our adventure to the sound of loud air horns. Two minutes later I plunged into freezing cold water in the Slippery Slope obstacle that was made extra cold with the addition of multiple pallets of ice cubes. When I got out I was numb from the waist down.

After the Slippery Slope I went through the Boa Constrictor. Crawling through two pitch black tubes in more chilled water numbed my entire upper body so at least I couldn’t feel all the pain I was in. After crawling, stomping, and wading through more mud I reached the Motocross Loop, which I would hit twice during the entire event. Todd, a fellow Mudder who ran the whole thing with me, and I chased the hills and burned through the early obstacles as quickly as we could to avoid bottlenecks at the obstacles.

We reached the first trail run and it beat me down big time. Hill after hill pummeled my legs into submission. These hills were so steep Todd and I were taking running starts just to get up the first quarter of the incline. I slipped on one steep decline, grabbed a slim tree branch and threw myself into a pile of leaves. Got up laughing and kept running forward. I stopped laughing went I saw the last hill of the trail section.

Oh, sorry. I said hill when I meant to say vertical face of dirt and roots. Imagine the front of Stone Mountain slightly tilted backwards and you have a good idea of what I crawled up. No one could run up this face. In fact, everyone, myself included, was on all fours grabbing rocks and trees to physically pull themselves up to the ridge line. Halfway up the face six deer crashed through the forest and the biggest one ran straight into a tree about thirty yards away before leading the rest of the family down to the bottom. All of us were holding on praying this giant buck wasn’t going to run us over.

Todd and I reached the top and ran fifty yards to the equally steep decline. I seriously wished I had mountain goat DNA in my system because that decline was treacherous and I nearly bit the ground hard on one misstep. Fortunately though, I made it through only to reach the swamp stomp! Two hundred yards of sloshing through chest high cold and muddy water and I was at the Mystery Obstacle.

The Mystery Obstacle, like many of the obstacles, requires teamwork. We had to scale a 12 foot wall using a rope and only our upper body, no legs at all, with zero running start since the ground was too muddy to get any traction. A former Army man on the top of the obstacle helped Todd and me up the wall – it helped that he had arms the size of watermelons. We thanked the man and stayed behind to help other Mudders up the wall.

After the wall it we ran into the Moonshine Hill Run. Halfway through even more brutal hills than the first series, I wondered why anyone would take such a slow route to traffic moonshine. But, by then I was slightly delirious and only focusing on putting one foot in front of the other. A the top of the Moonshine Run was the “Hold Your Wood” obstacle. Todd and I had to carry half a telephone pole about six hundred yards over more hilly terrain. Remarkably, that challenge was not as bad as it sounds. We finished quickly and made our way to the third water station at the bottom of the trail.

Barefoot at Mile 8

Barefoot at Mile 8

We were past the halfway point and making great time when we came to the Monkey Bars. I am very pleased to report that I crushed that obstacle. I think all of the tree climbing I did as a kid finally paid off, but after that obstacle was deep mud and my shoes were so caked in mud I was sliding all over the place. I stopped for a moment, kicked my shoes off and went forward barefoot.

A quarter mile after the Monkey Bars Todd and I ran through the Fire Walker. We ran blind through fifty yards of smoke filled air and fire. One volunteer stood on the far side and called out to us every few seconds so we knew where to run to.

After the Fire Walker we ran back through the Motocross Loop where started the race. Todd and I were exhausted and we were walking the last two miles over the hills and declines. Eventually, we reached the final aid station before the last two obstacles.

Three hundred yards later and I vaulted up a ramp to the top of a platform about twenty feet above an ice-cold lake. After twelve miles vertigo hit me like a hammer and I paused for a moment while I considered why I paid money to do this. I yelled to the crowd for a count-down – “3, 2 1, JUMP!” I plunged into water so cold I lost my breath and my muscles seized up. I reached the surface and immediately started side swimming to shore one painful yard at a time. Halfway there I honestly thought I would not make it, but I kept swimming and I finally reached the shore. Exhausted, beat up, cold, and sore I had one final obstacle left: Electroshock Therapy.

Electroshock Therapy on the Right

Electroshock Therapy on the Right

A short explanation is required for this obstacle. Ten yards before the finish line there is a thirty yard space about six yards wide where tiny wires hang in the breeze. Some of these wires contain 10,000 volts of live electricity. I took a deep breath and charged into the wires. I made it a quarter of the way through before I blacked out. I woke up a second later face down in the mud wondering where I was. That fog quickly lifted and I tried getting up to finish. I hit another wire and blacked out again. This time I learned from my mistake and crawled under the wires until out of the danger zone. I got up shakily and made my way the last ten yards and punched the sky with my hands in triumph.

Final finish time – 3 hours and 10 minutes.

Now, what is the moral of this story? Probably that I am a foolish individual who has a warped idea of what passes for a good time on a Sunday afternoon. But the second moral is never stop moving forward. Remember, I got electrocuted twice and kept going so I don’t want to hear any “I’m tired coach” at practice for the rest of the season.


Hurt versus Injured

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This is a tough topic to discuss in youth sports, and even tougher because I am not a parent. I cannot imagine what I would feel if I saw my future kid get drilled in a U13 game and not get up quickly. I can only think my insides would be twisting into a Gordian Knot until I see him rise up. Until I have kids of my own, I will cherish my current moments of carefree worry, but I believe the concept of being hurt versus injured is a valid topic for discussion.

Gordian Knot

Gordian Knot

As I said in earlier posts, youth lacrosse is not about teaching players how to play. It is about teaching young boys how to live. Every parent wants their child to learn firsthand about respect, fair-play, honor, hard work, etc. Still, out of all those worthwhile lessons, one of the most difficult lessons to learn is how to play through pain. I am certain no parent wants to see their kid in pain, but there is a serious benefit to learning about pain in a controlled environment.

The hard part about youth sports is that players will get hurt and they will get injured. In fact the National Center for Sports Safety reported that in 2001, “more than 3.5 million children ages 14 and under [received] medical treatment for sports injuries.” Now this information should not scare anyone out of playing. As with all knowledge what matters is how it is applied.

If a player is seriously injured there is no reason for him or her to return to the field of play. Take your pick of injuries: concussion, broken limb or digit, twisted ankle, stitches, etc. There are a multitude of legitimate injuries that may require a quick look from a trainer or the professional treatment of an M.D. In a game, these injuries usually have a coach, parent, or trainer coming to the aid of the player. So players, if you get an injury do not worry about the game. Take your gear off if you are staying on the sidelines and cheer your team on from the sidelines. A friend of mine tore his ACL in a game my senior year. He stayed on the sideline in obvious pain cheering us on till the final horn. I probably played harder than I had all year because of his sacrifice.

This is an Injury

This is an Injury

Flipping over to the other side of the coin: getting hurt. For me, being hurt involves pain. There will likely be a sore spot, bruise, and blood involved in getting hurt. Over my ten year playing career I have gotten hurt more times than I can count. In youth ball my hurts were:

  • Hit in the throat with a shot
  • Bruised ankle on a save
  • Had the wind knocked out of me
  • Got my “bell” rung – no concussion
  • Been stepped on
  • Cross-checked, slashed, and pushed
  • Stuck my stomach with the butt-end of my stick on a ground ball (that really hurts by the way)
  • Playing while sick, ill, or otherwise the walking dead

I played through all of these hurts because of one of my dad’s lessons. He said, “Gordon, “there is a difference between hurt and injured. You can play if you are hurt.” Playing through pain is a poignant lesson that I apply almost daily in my life. Through difficult times on the lacrosse field I learned to break through my personal limits of pain for the greater good of the team. I did not understand the power of that lesson when I was in ninth grade. Heck, I did not see it’s importance at the end of my senior year. I finally realized how profound it was when I was sick as a dog and managed to drag my butt out of bed to get to class.

Playing through a little bit of pain in fifth grade serves me well at twenty-three years old. Can you imagine how well it will serve me when I have a family to support?

Featured Image Credit – www.washparkchiro.com