Functional Fitness

Big accident… good fitness has made my recovery quicker

Accidents happen, some are worse than others, but last Saturday I had a bad one that knocked me for six. Last week I felt as though I’d aged ten years, but I’m coming back round now and am confident that it’s my fitness that’s helped me.

Before I tell you what happened, I need to say that I’ve seen a good number of old people take a significant depreciation in their health following an accident or bout of serious illness – I’ve seen them never quite recover from the impact. And that’s to mention the psychological affects of having a health set back. I’m having to face simple facts that I am getting old, wrong side of fifty, and need to acknowledge how my health can be managed.

On Saturday, 3rd November, I’d had a good 35km bike ride out with some mates, nice sunny weather, good speeds, all fine. We stopped for a coffee in the centre of Malmesbury, after which I got on the bike for the short ride home. As I went round a sharp right hand corner in town, the front wheel washed out from under me. I was going slowly at the time, but the fall happened so fast that there was nothing I could do to protect myself and I landed heavily on my right side, including hitting my helmet on the road. The pain was immediate and very intense, but with help of some passers-by and a local shop I managed to get to the pavement, where I laid out flat while I collected my thoughts and assessed what had happened. A car driver who’d witnessed the fall was a nurse and, although an ambulance had already been called, we worked through my symptoms and decided that, despite the pain, an ambulance wasn’t required and that I could get a lift to A&E. Don’t get me wrong, I was in a huge amount of pain and struggling for breath, but this didn’t seem to be life threatening and the emergency services arguably have better things to worry about, so I got my lift to Swindon’s A&E department.

The long and the short of it is… I bashed my head (helmet’s en route back to Kask for a replacement), but pretty sure I didn’t knock myself out… all the bony points on my right side that hit the ground are heavily grazed, that’s shoulder, elbow, forearm, hip and knees… everything between the grazes is bruised… and I’ve got several ribs with suspected strains and/or fractures. The biggest issue was the shock that had set in, which was what making me short of breath. I felt absolutely battered, but there was nothing that could be done at A&E other than prescribe rest and painkillers.

Mid-way through the first week of living on a mixture of paracetamol, ibruprofen and codeine, I was really feeling the effects of the accident. In addition to the immediate pain of the various injuries, my back was in spasms as it tried to compensate for the other strains, I’d lost my core strength and my hands started to shake, again both part of some body-compensation going on. This was the point at which I thought my age was going to play its part and set me back in terms of my fitness and general health.

It’s now Monday 12th November, a week and a bit since the accident, and I’m glad to say that I’m coming out of the other side of the injuries. I stopped the painkillers on Friday, apart from a couple of paracetamols, and am now reasonably mobile, although coughs are still painful, in my ribs. I’m finding getting mobile is doing me good, so I’ve done some gym cover – while I may be mobile, something’s still amiss with my ribs, as they hurt if I try to push/pull any weight through my upper body and core, so some healing still to happen there. And finally the graze/bruise on my hip is probably the most noticeably painful part still, as it rubs on my trousers during the day and then I sleep on it at night, so the healing is being disrupted – not sure I can do much about that, although I’ve resorted to a big plaster of sorts today.

Coming back to the fitness part of this discussion, I am confident that if I’d been in less better shape, then I would definitely have been knocked back. I’m not for a second saying that I’m at the peak of physical perfection, but I’m not bad and that’s protected me from this accident being worse in terms of my ability to recover.

The one thing that I do think has been the greatest benefit has been the weight training that I work into my exercise programmes. It is acknowledged that weight-bearing exercise increases bone density and strength, so aside from my ribs that took an almighty hit, I’ don’t seem to have snapped anything else – I concerns were my shoulder, the classic bike injury, but that was fine. But I’m certain that the muscle mass that I’ve built through those exercises also played a part in protecting me – there’s more flesh around my bones in the shape of muscles to absorb impacts, but the muscles themselves had the strength to contract and protect the joints, and to restrict my limbs moving in unnatural ways, that could have resulted in further breaks or strains. Some of this is clearly entirely circumstantial, but it was a bit hit and, while I choose not to resort to an ambulance, it resulted in a suprising amount of trauma and the effects of that have been minimized by staying as fit as possible.

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