Last year, during the Pines “Tour De Valley” Individual Time Trial, I crashed off my time trial bike. I was heading around a very tight bend and realising that I was not going to make this corner, relaxed and allowed the crash to happen.
I did a couple of spectacular somersaults and felt a “pop” occur in my left hamstring. I slid down a rather steep embankment, pulled myself back up to the road using a couple of vines that were hanging down the hill and tried to stand up.
Ouch! I immediately knew that things weren’t too good with my hamstring, but at the same time didn’t realise how bad they were either. I received fantastic help from Vickie, one of my racing buddies and was transported back to base by one of the Commissaires.
Back at the starting point, I tried to be stoic, and rationalise that things weren’t that bad. But I couldn’t sit down. I was scared to lie down, fearing that I would not have the strength to get up again. Some kind HPRW members took me to the Wesley Emergency.
I was given a couple of Panadeine Forte and orders for X Rays. Getting onto the X Ray bed would have to count as one of the most excruciating things I’ve done. I was sent home with the diagnosis of soft tissue damage and advised to see a physio.
Luckily I have an excellent physio by the name of Paul Fien out at UQ Sports and Rehab. We started rehab immediately and things improved. The back of my knee went black with bruising. Little did I know that when a hamstring is torn, gravity makes blood pool, hence the damage showing up lower down.
I was diligent about my rehab. I even documented it in my prior blog, which got “eaten” whilst I was away doing Three Peaks. I wondered why I wasn’t getting any better and why I continually felt miserable. I gained weight. Nothing felt like it was working, even though I was training my butt off. I kept persisting with rehab – my goal being that when I could do bent knee bridges at 90 degrees I’d start running. Nothing happened.
Finally, I decided that it was time to have an MRI. My friend Jo, who is a GP, helped me out and organised it. I stalled a little, then bit the bullet and made the appointment. Needless to say we were flabbergasted when the results came back showing a complete tear of the hamstring tendon off the bone. These tears typically occur when the hip is flexed and the knee is straightened suddenly resulting in a violent force being applied to the tendon. That is certainly what happened to me when I crashed.
I marvelled at how mind works over matter in the pursuit of a goal. No wonder I felt terrible. Yet, I was doing these 200km rides accepting my feelings of being sub par as the price I had to pay to develop base fitness.
My resting heart rate was dropping, but my times up the mountains weren’t. Coach Liz was perplexed. However when I told her about my MRI result, it all started to make sense.
I saw an orthopaedic surgeon here in Brisbane. It was looking like I needed surgery. The issue was that a hamstring tendon repair is not a terribly common surgery. Complete hamstring avulsions happen to water-skiers, aerial skiers, Mick Fanning and Michelle Bridges. I was none of those.
Further research showed up two surgeons that specialised in hamstring repair – David Wood in Sydney and Julian Feller in Melbourne. I booked in to see both. Julian Feller was away having his own back surgery, so I was referred to see Andrew Oppy. Both David Wood and Andrew Oppy concluded surgery was my best bet, however, now being six months out from the acute trauma, the chances of successful surgery outcomes were diminishing.
In the end, I decided to book in with Andrew Oppy in Melbourne at the beginning of April. He immediately sent me for more MRI scans at Olympic Park Sports Medicine centre and the entire Orthosports Victoria staff have been nothing but professional and helpful.
As there is so little information floating around out there about personal experiences with hamstring avulsions and surgical repair and subsequent recovery, I will endeavour to try to write about my experience so that for anyone else out there who is unfortunate enough to sustain this type of injury, that there will be light at the end of the tunnel – I hope!