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My Journey to the Olympic Trials

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Betsy OlympicsThis July, I had the opportunity to compete in the US Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene , Oregon.  My event is the steeplechase, a 3000m (7.5 laps, 1.86 miles) race over barriers.  There are 35 barriers and one each lap has a water pit on the other side. For women the barriers are set to 30 inches.  Unlike hurdles that you may be used to seeing on the track, the barriers cross three lanes, are made of wood and don’t fall over if you hit them.  It adds another dimension to distance running.  I’ve heard people call it ‘terrifying,’ ‘difficult,’ and overall unappealing, but I call it fun.

 To qualify for the Trials in track, you have to run a qualifying time (under 9:53 for women’s steeplechase this year) within the year leading up to the race. I qualified in 2012 in the same event and decided then to make it back in 2016.

The experience, especially the build up to the race, taught me a lot about life and running. The beginning of my season didn’t go exactly as planned.  My first race was a good start, but my second race was poor.  My third attempt was interrupted by a thunderstorm.  The disappointment left me questioning my ability and purpose.



ShoulderPain 450x550

What is a rotator cuff? We all hear about injuries to the “rotator cuff” but what is it, what does it do, how do we injure it and how do we fix it?  The rotator cuff is located in the shoulder joint and is comprised of the following muscles, teres minor, infraspinatus, supraspinatus and subscapularis. These muscles connect the top portion of the humerus to the scapula, or shoulder blade. Together these muscles help the shoulder joint internally and externally rotate.

          TAP 450x550  There are many different ways to injure a rotator cuff.   Injury can occur from over use of the shoulder in either a repeated motion or simply over time.  It is a common injury in throwing athletes, baseball and softball players, as well as swimmers and football players.  We are also prone to injuring our shoulder simply by falling and trying to catch ourselves with an outstretched arm. There are different types of injuries that the shoulder can suffer from.  The rotator cuff can become impinged, or it can be partially torn or completely torn. Another common shoulder injury is adhesive capsulitis, or a frozen shoulder. This occurs when the joint itself no longer is able to move pain free. The tissues around the joint have stiffened and possible scar tissue has formed, limiting motion and making it painful to try and use the shoulder.

            When someone injures their rotator cuff, sometimes they report feeling and/or hearing a pop in their shoulder, followed by pain.  The pain may last only for a moment or linger. Others may have shoulder pain for a period of time and let it build up until they can no longer stand it and then seek treatment. Some symptoms of a shoulder injury are weakness, and an inability to sleep on the injured shoulder.  One may also notice snapping and cracking with movement.  There may also be pain trying to move the shoulder in certain directions and performing certain activities after a tear has occurred. 



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Everything Happens for a Reason

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NancyryanAs a middle school student, I thought I heard the worst news of my life when I was told I needed a back surgery.  That news led to an event that would change my life forever.

My love for sports whether watching or playing started at an early age for me.  I was classified as the athlete and occasional “tomboy” by my family. I played teeball then softball for as long as I can remember along with trying any other sport that was thrown my way including basketball, volleyball, tennis, and track & field.  I enjoyed being active and was really looking forward to competitive team sports during middle school. 

In order to participate in middle school sports, an official sports physical was required by the MHSSA.  During my sports physical, I completed the forward bend testing to examine my spine.  It was brought to my attention that I needed to be further evaluated for Scoliosis by a spine specialist.

Scoliosis is a lateral curvature of the spine that can present like a “C” or “S” shape in the thoracic and lumbar spine.  It can have many degrees from very mild with just needing to be monitored, moderate with bracing, and severe with surgical intervention.

Upon further examination over many consecutive x-rays and spine specialist appointments, it was determined that my “S” shaped curve was growing rapidly and more severe.  Surgical intervention would be the best recommendation in order to prevent significant functional impairments for my future.  At first, I thought it would be no big deal until things were further explained to me.  They wanted to try a newer procedure with fusions versus placing rods in my spine.  It would be a lengthy surgery and recovery requiring a back brace and months of physical therapy following surgery.  There were many risks to the surgery that at the time I felt invincible and would never happen to me.  However there was one thing that frightened me and that would be not being able to participate in sports during recovery and the possibility of not being able to return to a competitive athlete especially with contact sports.



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Bridging the Gap

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RS924 shutterstock 84331045 resizeIf you have ever rehabilitated an athletic injury, you know there is a big difference between completing your rehab, and returning to competition.  You are pain free, have full range of motion, and are completely functional, but are you prepared for the true demands of your sport, both mentally and physically?

Bridging the gap between rehabilitation and competition is an important component to recovery that many people do not consider. Strength deficits, motor control, speed, agility and reaction time are often affected by an injury. When we have reached our rehabilitation goals we sometimes still fall short of where we need to be to return to sport.

This is where a Return to Play program comes in.



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