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Sunday, January 13, 2013

To skate or to stay healthy.. Surely, it is a no brainer.

The Alexei Yagudin fans out there might know of a documentary produced by Channel 1 from 2007 named Любовь, боль и лед (Love, Pain and Ice). This documentary was the first time I have heard about Alexei's long going hip problems and his subsequent hip replacement surgery. It's a great skating documentary but it is in Russian. Nevertheless, I'm also attaching the videos' word inscription to be found here, anyone interested can put the file in google translate and read it.

Love Pain and Ice Part 1

 Part 2
Part 3

Basically, Alexei talked in detail about how his degenerative hip bone affected his life quality. At the time, I thought I understood his difficulties and sympathised with a situation where you are constantly in pain and uncomfortable.

A few weeks ago, after suffering from a sudden bout of constant hip pain, I went to see a doctor. You see, I had a heavy fall as an (very) amateur adult skater in 2007 and since then had on again off again hip pain. So I went in to hear something about micro breaks or something similar but instead with an initial diagnosis of sacroiliitis,  I was shipped off to different departments for a differential with potential chronic autoimmune diseases. While waiting for results, I read about my potential prognosis. Constant and persistent life long pain was the first thing that jumped off the pages. Being in pain for days at that moment, I simply couldn't see how anyone can deal and go on living a normal life with something like this on a permanent basis. Suffice to say, I broke down.

My diagnosis since then has been indeterminate. I solely seem to be suffering from degenerative hip issues but more severe possibilities could not have been 100% ruled out. Oh and I have been told to not set foot on ice again. Now, having gone through hell for 10 days and only recently having stopped aching, my first thought was "How can I never skate again?". And I am just a very amateur skater. I am not a pro, I am not a top level competitor. But still..

When hearing about stories like Alexei, I always thought the price surely must not be worth it. And even if you are not completely broken like Alexei but seem to suffer from various chronic ailments like say Plushenko, surely you wouldn't think of going back to ice to compete while risking more permanent injuries. I simply couldn't understand it. But denial (or rejection) is a very potent aphrodisiac. Despite all the worries for your health, staying away from something you love is so difficult. I think there are skaters who skate because after a certain point they don't know anything else and there are those who simply must skate. Knowingly risking your health to skate & compete again is a non-issue for them. I think I kind of understand their motivation now. I think I might step on that ice again, even if only for one last time.


  1. Thanks for sharing, I thought your last paragraph was especially well-put and quite poignant.

    I hope you are feeling better, and be careful if you do go skate again!

  2. Thank you for your kind words..

    I am mixed with feelings of apprehension and intense desire in terms of returning to ice. A very unfavourable combo, I believe. :)

    I just read Mishin's comments on this exact topic this morning. He says about Plushenko's succesful return despite several ongoing injuries: "It is also my credit that Zhenia skates well and correctly executes the jumps, because I taught him the right technique. If his technique wouldn't have been right, he could not have returned. Those, who don't have the right technique need to pull everything together in order to perform well and then they leave. But it is not my credit that Zhenia is able to pull himself together so heroically, this is thanks to his mother and father who gave him this talent of a fighter."
    I think what he says there about having the right technique being key for the injuries & continuation is very important. I keep thinking, had I not been so cocky to think I can self-teach but hired a coach properly, I might not have had a classic "Doug Dorsey" fall (I am ashamed to admit it was the toe pick that was my undoing). For any novice aspiring adult skater out there, let me re-emphasise the importance of not going coachless at early stages. Take it from me..

  3. The technique thing is very true. At the moment, I'm reading a book by Gilbert Fuchs (early World champion) from 1925 on skating and he basically says the same thing: good technique allows you to return from absence way more easily (whether through injury or other reasons), bad technique requires constant practice to adjust it and hit your stuff and will always do so.

    Don't blame (y)our coachless cockiness for the fall. :) I don't think a coach can prevent unfortunate freak falls. Even pros catch a toe-pick sometimes. It's more a sense of balance over the skate than technique thing, anyway, and that comes with time, invariably. I've horrible tech but only had toe-pick problems in my first 2-3 sessions.

    Nevertheless, to all you out there, heed the Bittersweet Saffron's advice and get a coach before you end up like us: ingraining into yourselves bad technique and posture when at our late age the huge effort to ingrain anything at all into our muscle memory should be spent on proper technique. :D

    I had my huge toepick fall in my 2nd or 3rd session after I took up skating. I was having such a good night and was really fast underway in speedskating style, for the fun of it :D:D It really propelled me off the ice when I caught the pick, after some decent ice coverage in flight, I broke the fall with my hands and arms but was quite lucky nothing broke, I think, but had pain for several weeks afterwards. Since then the pick hasn't bothered me at all.

    Some time ago, I read another book which suggested that those starting skating at our "advanced" age can still have fun in the discipline of ice dancing. At the time, I was pretty miffled by that condescending attitude but maybe there's some thruth to it.
    Should we switch disciplines Bittersweet Saffron?