I turned 31 last week, which means I’m well into the part of my life where stuff stops healing as quickly as it used it, but not yet at the part where each injury becomes a permanent feature of the biological landscape. Physical bounce-back is still possible, but it takes its sweet time.
It’s the mental aspect that hurts the most, though. Sure, a rolled ankle will probably be fine in few days, but knowing that it won’t come back that well, that it’s 90 percent when it does, that I’m one closer to a fully blown tire; that doesn’t go away, even when the swelling goes down.
I am limiting these to injuries I have experienced in my life, in which I have been incredibly fortunate. “Minor” injuries are classified here as “not requiring a doctor.”
Usually experienced during running, so I love these. Any excuse to stop and walk for a while.
Skinned Knee / Elbow
This makes me mad at myself more than anything else (“You dummy, how did you skin your knee? What are you, a newborn giraffe? Can’t stay on your own two feet, roll bounce?“). Hurts like a motherfucker but heals in no time, plus it leaves fun, scabby strips of skincrust to pick at during the healing process. It can result in gnarly scars, which is like getting a tattoo you don’t have to pay for. Underrated minor injury, in my opinion.
The “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” of sports injuries. It only takes 90 seconds of not being a dildo to avoid, and yet. It is the microwave burrito of injuries; a few minutes of planning ahead and you could have avoided a limp, sweaty bean tube that’ll probably give you cancer. Laziness is the silent, stupid killer.
Shin Splints / Generic Joint Pain
Cards on the table: I don’t even know what these really are, but I get them now. Sometimes, stuff just aches for no reason and it blows. They’re like cramps but in my bones. I hate them but have no idea how to avoid them. Eat more bananas, maybe? That was the catch-all sports fix when I was growing up, bananas and water.
This happens every other time I play basketball. I’m typing this with a jammed finger on my left hand right now. It’s like having nine normal fingers and one hot dog that radiates dull pain.
The deadbeat older brother of a jammed finger. The same level of pain, except the finger also juts out at an unnatural, Tool-video-horrifying angle. The silver lining on this one is getting to look like a real tough-ass popping the finger back into place.
Of course, this also comes with the lingering fear that one day, you will be unable to get the finger back in the socket. With my luck, this’ll happen to me the first time I do any sports with my future children. They’ll just want to play and Daddy will have to be taken to the hospital because one of his pinkies made a run for it and he mangled himself trying to look like Jason Statham.
I’ve rolled my ankles dozens of times, and every one of them A) made me sprawl out on the ground like I was made of pipe cleaner and B) feels like I’m breaking my foot clean off from my leg. I once sprained both of my ankles in about 10 minutes. My ligaments are pretty much string cheese now; every time I stretch my ankles out, it sounds like someone throwing pennies into a dryer.
If you can forget that this is technically light brain damage, it doesn’t feel much worse than drinking too much.
I’ve only separated my shoulder once, and it was during a rugby game in college. It felt like someone lit a bonfire between my shoulder blades. I do not recommend it.
Worst case scenario, you can live without all this other stuff. Jammed fingers? You weren’t playing the piano anyway. Sprained ankles? They make shoes with wheels in them now. Concussions? Not ideal, but as long as you aren’t a professional football player, you’re probably going to be fine.
You only get one spine, though, and that fucker doesn’t heal at all. If you break any part of it, even a little bit, your whole body shuts down forever. I fear back pain like I fear nothing else.