Vasya Vorotnikov - The Injury

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The “Injury”

By Vasya Vorotnikov

2010 has been one of the most productive competition seasons ever for me.  In January, I got 2nd place at the “Winter Burn” in Philadelphia and then defended my title at the “Heart of Steel” in Boston.  In February, I was in 1st place after qualifiers at the ABS Nationals in Virginia but was not able to keep it up in the finals.  I recovered after that loss and won the “Feats of Strength” comp in New York and the third “Dark Horse Series” event.  In March, I got 1st place at the annual “Power Struggle” in Connecticut, and just missed the win at the “Dark Horse Championships”, only losing to my rival and friend Rob D’Anastasio.  In April, I felt really strong at the Earth Treks Roc Comp, placing 4th after a few big-names: Chris Sharma, Paul Robinson, and Daniel Woods.


But it’s always when you’re feeling the best that a seemingly insignificant nothing can exacerbate into a whole lot of something.  And so, by Murphy’s Law or not, my foot decided to blow up.  Going from size 9.5 to size 11, with nearly twice the volume, it was painful to fit into my regular sneaks, never mind my favorite La Sportiva climbing shoes.  But what the hell and how did this happen?  I always try to be the healthy one; open-handing every hold I grab, be it a sloper or a tiny crimp, and listen to my body when it comes to pushing limits during training sessions.  So this is what I get?  One foot that’s twice as big as the other?


The only solution I could come up with was to stop climbing and rest, something a doctor would tell you regardless of what injury or abnormality you’ve obtained.  And, as expected, the doctors said just that.  And so I took nearly a month off…  I never take a month off!  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve stopped climbing for a couple of weeks here and there:  I’ve gotten sick during the flu season, I’ve jammed my fingers playing basketball several times (before sport Nationals of all times), I’ve sprained my ankle before, and I’ve even hurt finger tendons.  But nothing has ever kept me away from climbing for this long.  Taking that much time off while craving climbing was like teasing a little kid with a candy bar and never sharing it with him (the same analogy can be used with me, I love candy).  I stopped exercising because anything I’d try would cause some sort of sensation in my foot, and sit-ups and pull-ups wouldn’t keep me happy.


In June and July, I finally got some vague answers as to what I have.  It’s called lymphedema, and it’s a condition of one of the bodily fluids, called lymph, collecting in one of your extremities.  The symptom is obvious, - the enlargement of my foot.  There are only a few treatments out there, including massage therapy called the drainage technique, compression, and an electronic therapy called deep oscillation.  The prognosis is not the most promising, with the problem possibly becoming more severe with age. 

I have tried all of the treatments at this point, and the pain is now gone.  Mobility has increased, but not enough to be able to crimp with my toes or wear the same-sized shoes.  The biggest problem with being diagnosed with lymphedema is that there is no knowledge of the cause:  it could be genetic or it could be injury-related.  The current theory is that I have been wearing climbing shoes that are too small for me and I may have damaged my lymph vessels, but it will be a while before I go through enough tests to know the cause of this edema.


Meanwhile, it’s good to be climbing again and back in good shape.  While injuries can slow you down, they can also excel your climbing by providing some extra motivation to train again.  This seems to have happened and it paid off with a good performance at the “Nor’easter”, grabbing 5th place, winning the “Midnight Burn” back in Philadelphia, and another 1st place finish at the first “Dark Horse” event in Newburyport, MA.  With another competition season under way, it’ll be important to pay attention to shoe sizes and, at least for now, I’ll be the one rocking the compression sock on my left foot.

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