Unfortunately, our family had some sports-injury challenges to kick off the summer of 2020, as my super sporty 13 year-old daughter, Carly, dislocated her left elbow about in May. She has always enjoyed riding bikes, but once we were sheltering in place she had the time and the desire to start riding more frequently and for longer distances. She and her 7-year-old brother were taking 15 mile rides on Mount Tamalpais behind our house. They were building dirt jumps in an open field. For about a month, she spent hours on her bike each day. It was so wonderful to see them spending so much special time together doing something they both loved!
Then one day, as Carly was going over a big dirt jump on her mountain bike, she fell. She must have extended her left arm to break the fall and fell on her hand. She knew immediately that her elbow “went out and in.” Luckily, a close friend is an orthopedic surgeon and saw her immediately. After examinations and x-rays, her arm was put in a futuristic looking brace that could be mistaken for a prop in a science fiction movie. Carly said it looked “bionic” and our 4 year-old son had taken to calling her “Iron Girl.”
Although the brace allowed Carly to move her arm up and down, it restricted her arm from doing any motion that could reinjure it. Not being able to shoot a basketball normally, to ride her bike or to hit a backhand in tennis, was not fun to her. Carly was bummed!
So, we came up with creative alternative activities she could do to stay physically active. Carly said our alternative activities definitely were not as much fun as her normal ones, but at least she was staying active and learning how to deal with a challenging situation. I emphasized to her that she could develop other skills that she may have never taken the time to develop if she hadn’t gotten hurt. For example, click here to see a short video of Carly dribbling with her basketball (with only her right hand).
Dealing with an injury is not easy whether you are 13 or 44. It is hard to be patient and let your body heal. It’s hard to see your arm atrophying. It is hard to stop doing the things that you love and bring you joy. However, if you are creative and keep a positive attitude, hopefully you can find a silver lining and make lemonade out of lemons.
Carly got her bionic brace off after about two months or wearing it. Once it was off, she had to be cautious about moving her elbow too much until it fully healed. For a while, post-brace, she could only dribble with her right hand and could only use one arm for her backhand in tennis.
Thankfully, Carly’s back to her normal activities and is better than ever. The silver lining has been that Carly learned valuable lessons about staying positive, being patient and successfully adapting to a challenging situation – all great life lessons that are applicable to all aspects of her life in sports and beyond.