Postponing surgery

I just read a bit out of your shoulder chronicles, and as it turns out I find myself in exactly the same position, almost. I didn’t break any bones but I have torn all the ligaments that connect my clavicle and scapula. I can ride but only feel about 75 percent right now, but I am still competitive (I took forth in DS at Chalk Creek last weekend in Expert 19-30) which deepens my mental strife.

I am looking full on at throwing away everything I have worked toward this year if I have surgery now, not to mention work and such, or I can limp through the season, risk the possibility of further injury and get cut up in the fall.

I have been talking to a lot of people trying to figure this out, and just wanted to know what your decision was and why. My goal for the season is to be in semi-pro by next year, and even with my injury it looks like it might be possible so I am having a really, really hard time trying to figure out what to do. Your two cents would be greatly appreciated.


Hey Dan,

My decision

The good news: My PT was so good I fooled my doctor into thinking the bone had healed.

To recap: I am missing two big ligaments that connect my clavicle to my scapula, plus I’m missing the clavicle itself. I broke the clavicle about four years ago, and it never healed. Turns out the only thing holding my right arm onto my body is muscle. I feel strong, but I get very sore, and the constant movements and noises are unnerving. The doctor says the wrong crash can do serious damage. He wants to rebuild everything. The recovery will be long and arduous, kind of like yours.

Getting hurt sucks. One day you’re healthy, the next day you’re useless. Setting a date for surgery is even harder, because you force that change on yourself. Today I feel awesome; I want to feel terrible next Tuesday.

I decided to postpone my surgery until Fall. Why:

– I need my shoulders to pay the bills. I have a book coming out, and this is my busy coaching season. Surgery now would end all that.

Rocking the Lory State Park pump track last year. Check out that right shoulder. Yuck, I had no idea.

– The number one risk factor for serious MTB injuries is being a racer. Racers are 10 times more likely to need hospitalization than non-racers (10X!!!). That’s a huge difference, and it’s because racers are always pushing, even in training.

– I figure if I lay off the racing, big dirt jumps and full-on DH, I can do my work, stay in shape and have fun — and keep my shoulders pretty safe. I plan to get cut in the Fall, and I plan to enter the surgery in excellent shape. That will aid the recovery.

– Some people would say postponing my surgery was a crazy decision, but I guess we all do things for our own reasons. Now that I know what’s going on in my shoulder, I have way less tolerance for the pain and noises, and sometimes wish it was already fixed. But I’ve made my decision.

As for you

My 2002 surgery SUCKED, then the shoulder felt good for a few years, and now it’s starting to suck again. My new doctor says the old surgery created a lot of scar tissue.

– Racing is serious business. If you’re in it to win it, you have to show up completely free of worry and give it 100 percent. You cannot worry about crashing. Any concerns are going to create tension, which will retard your performance and — probably — make you crash and really hurt yourself. My opinion: Do not race unless you can really give it. (Of course, I’m racing BMX, but that’s for the book … do as I say, not as I do.)

– Turning semi-pro is no reason to endanger yourself. I know the upgrade seems like a big deal from where you’re sitting, but — and please take this the right way — semipro ain’t shit. I have a semi-pro license, and I’m a pretty decent rider, but the first time you race Milan, Hanak and Watt in 4X, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If you are not KILLING expert, you will get blasted in semi and demolished in pro/semi. Don’t rush the upgrade.

– Say you race this season, then get your upgrade. Are you gonna race semipro with a jacked up shoulder? Bad idea. Are you gonna try to debut in semipro while recovering from surgery? Dude — stepping up is enough when you’re healthy.

– Surgery is serious business. Once they go in there, you will not be the same. Your shoulder will get strong, and you’ll probably have less pain, but the recovery will suck, and you’ll likely have problems later. I had my left shoulder done in 2002 (torn labrum), and now it’s a real bastard. Despite my right shoulder’s issues, it’s still my “good shoulder.” Don’t get surgery unless you need it.

– It sounds like you need it. In my opinion, you should get your shoulder fixed before you upgrade to semipro.

Option 1: Race this year in expert. Fix your shoulder in the off season. Return to expert next year.

Option 2: Get the surgery now and resume racing next year. This is the smarter decision, but I can’t lead you where I haven’t gone.

Either way, you’re going semipro for the 2010 Mountain States Cup. Don’t be in a hurry. You have plenty of time, and when you step up you’ll be more ready. Watt, Hanak, Milan .. they ain’t nuthin’!

Good luck, take care and tell me how it goes,

— Lee

(Just ripped Hall Ranch, and it felt great.)

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