Written by Nick Adams
My 2300 lb total, deadlifting vehicles, 1300 lb frame carries, baseball, swimming, keg tosses, Highland Games…
Each one of these flashed through my head, one right after the other – a replay of my athletic and competitive life and career.
Then a numbness ran through my body and centered my brain. I was on the floor of the old ASF, on my stomach. It took me a second to gather myself. It had finally happened. The injury.
Moving big weights is not for the meek
When you’re moving heavy weights, there’s inherent risk that comes with it. An injury isn’t a possibility, it’s a likely outcome. You can’t fully prevent it.
I’ve been competing and moving big weights for over half my life. Injury free. I’d always joke about it, because you can’t let yourself sit and think about the potential bad outcome. It’ll eat at you, and that’s a luxury you can’t afford at heavy weights. Your focus can’t be interrupted.
As I do with everything in life, I went big for my first real injury. One step and everything changed. As I was walking the 600 lbs on the bar back into the rack from a front squat, I missed the hook on the right side, and when I went to adjust it, my ankle rolled. That was it.
I simultaneously fractured and dislocated my patella. The force completely ruptured my patella tendon. The only thing I felt was my entire upper leg move to the middle of my body, while my lower leg stayed planted, and then I was on the floor.
Luckily, I had the safety bars up (I am Captain Safety) and they caught the barbell, preventing it from crushing and killing me on the ground. Darryl and Sierra called the ambulance and kept talking with me, and that was my last night inside the gym for several months.
The long road to recovery
I had surgery a week later, and then it was 15 weeks of zero weight bearing on the leg. I was in bed. My dogs had a team of people walking them, and I had my parents here for the first couple of weeks and co-workers bringing me food.
I lost muscle. A lot of it. I’d go to appointments and be told, “You’ll walk again, but probably not compete,” and “Your strength won’t get back to where it was,” etc. Well, in all reality, my strength should have never been where it was in the first place.
I started college at 180 lbs and couldn’t come close to squatting that number. When I left, I was closing in on a 900 lb squat. As I told my panel when I interviewed here, one of my qualities is intensity, and it serves me well. This is one of those instances. I’m stubborn, and intense. You tell me I can’t do something, and that guarantees I’ll do it. I’ve been defying the odds since I was born. Literally.
The kicker though, is that over the years I’ve helped so many other people coming off an injury that I thought I had a grasp on it. I was wrong. The mental toll of this is so much larger than I imagined. I know I can force my leg to move under load or implement, but struggling with weights that I hadn’t even considered warm up weights before has been a humbling experience.
As I work through this, it’s been a great lesson in being able to truly relate with everyone going through an injury and rehab situation. Do I wish it wouldn’t have happened? Of course! But if I don’t gain something from this other than my mobility and strength, it will all have been a waste, and that’s something I can’t and won’t allow to happen.
So, if you’ve been wondering who the trainer is limping around the gym on crutches, and then a foam roller, and now walking at the speed of a tortoise, it’s me. Hello.