Thumb: Injury & Recovery
I’m closing in on the culmination of week three of my latest thumb (pronounced tum, with an Amharic accent) injury and recovery. I played, in order: five years of Tae-kwon-do (Korean Kickboxing), two years of American Football, four years of Rugby, and five years of Gracie Jujitsu. Never was I injured, outside of standard muscle soreness. And yet, playing pickup Basketball, in college and now as an old man and a longterm guest teacher, I have been significantly injured several times; thumbs and ankles every time.
What’s significant? When it interferes with my daily activities: walking, opening and closing and grabbing tingz and people. Why Basketball, and not these surface level more dangerous sports? The same counterintuitive reason that Lethwei is safer than Muay Thai and Western Boxing, and Rugby is safer than American Football.
Wraps and gloves and helmets and pads give us a false sense of security that the contents being protected are being fully protected. Take them off, and you immediately know how fragile we are. Sorry, Nassim. Ain't no such thing as halfway crooks! You’re either all in on safety, or your not. These sports are great for your heart-rate. But not for your neck. Protect ya neck! Likewise, when I play Basketball, which is surface-level safer, I overestimate my invulnerability, and I let my otherwise alert guard down. In this case, I overextended an arm that in jujitsu stays glued to my chest lest it be juji gatamed by my sparring partner, and a stray bullet of a pass from the other squad was inadvertently intercepted by my fist (h/t Bruce Lee). My thumb immediately started blushing, hooting and hollering.
So, what is to be done?
Going forward, I will respect Basketball as I respect the martial sciences, and other more serious contact sports. I will go less HAM with high school students who foul more than the initial batch o’ hack-a-Shaq strategists of the 90s.
How am I recovering?
I immediately stopped hooping for the first two weeks. I iced, elevated, and compressed by wrapping my hand using tape (h/t my beloved) at first and later my striking wraps. After a few days, I stopped wrapping for hours, and restricted it only to jujitsu practice, then totally stopped. I iced and used the sauna for two weeks with exceeding frequency. Though I didn’t stop training jujitsu I did reduce the frequency from 3x a week to 2x a week, and drilling only, no sparring. Now, I’m back to sparring, but less rounds. I did one round a couple days ago, and three last night. One with a guy my height, but 280 lbs. I’m a mere 220 lbs rn. My hand is okay. Thank God he only landed on my face a couple of times as he rolled out of my ground guillotine strangle.
I’m not at 100% yet, but I will continue to monitor the situation, and never take my thumb for granted ever again. I hear the particulars of our thumbs separate us even from the lower primates. Hope you all find my approach helpful, and feel free to drop your two cents on injury and recovery in the comments (paid subscribers only).
Stay safe. Stay strong.