A Word from an Injured Traceur

Wenxin Yang
By: Wenxin Yang

A year ago I took a nasty fall at the Chicago National Jam. It was the first of its kind in my entire career of doing Parkour thus far. I was very badly hurt by the initial shock but did not think too much of it at the time, I was inexperienced with radical injuries as I have never gotten myself into one. However, it was enough to put me out of commission for the rest of weekend.

Being the diligent athlete I am, I sought medical help from my primary physician immediately after I got back into town. My leg was badly swollen, I had zero degrees of flexion, and there was a nasty scrape on my left knee that by this time had become infected due to improper care. Still, I did not think too much of it and neither did my doctor. I had my knee x-rayed and the result came back saying I was perfectly fine. Just a flesh wound.

So I did not pay too much attention afterward and became reckless. A vast majority of the swelling went down within a month, but the pain did not. I could not load my left leg whatsoever, but being the stubborn Traceur that I was, I could not bear to compromise training for more than a month. The show went on, and it was a catastrophe. Every once in a while when I felt that my knee felt a bit better, I would go out to train, only to inadvertently tweak it again to where I could not walk. Starting college three months after my injury, I was now hours away from home now and my primary doctor who I am forced to see first before any other specialist due to some strange clause in my insurance policy.

There was much speculation in my head regarding what was keeping me from getting better again. I triaged my knee pain and concluded one week maybe it was a ligament sprain, the next week IT Band Syndrome, and the next a freak cyst development. With each new bit of information I came across, I would hit up the university gym and attempt to rehab it accordingly. Nothing worked. Finally I was fed up ,,,,,,,and decided I needed to know exactly what the problem was and got the leg x-rayed again during winter break.

“Your knee is fractured,” they said. I was shocked. They explained to me that they must have taken the x-ray at a wrong angle when they first saw me. How do you miss a knee splitting crack? I was baffled and also taken back as my worst fear has been realized; my first bone injury, a serious one at that. One that will take probably many months to rehab, with a chance I will never get back to the same level of functionality ever again.

Obviously I tried to book a surgery to patch the problem as soon as possible. But with all that said and done, it still took four more months after winter break to finally get the surgery under way due to trying to fit it in on a weekend I can get home, while accommodating for all of the mandatory post operation appointments.

I am a month and half out of surgery and finally things are looking up again. The problem was eliminated and the only pain I have left is scar tissue damage from the surgery itself. It will be a waiting game till I fully heal and until then I am trying my best not to hop back into training too fast and doing something stupid.

Throughout this whole experience I’ve learned quite a lot and here are some things I’d like to share with you in regards to life as a crippled traceur as well as tips if you are currently injured or are unfortunately hurt in the future:

 

1. Always See A Specialist

I cannot emphasize how important this is. Maybe it is just my family and our insurance plan, but we must see our family doctor first before being referred to specialist, which deter us a majority of the time due to how time consuming it can be. However because of my experience with the many primary doctors we have gone through in the past, it is very apparent to me that a sizable portion of them do not know how to treat sports athletes. A majority of the time all they do is prescribe painkillers to you and send you on your way, something I would have already done at home. I understand the sentiment against primary doctors (or in some cases sports physicians, god forbid) is something many athletes share around the country and their ineptitude is disastrous. Learn from my mistake and always go see a specialist for whichever area is hurting, even if you don’t think it’s a serious injury. It could potentially save you a lot of time and prevent you from being injured longer than you bargained for.

2. Stop Training, but Don’t Stop Training

I’m going to repeat what many others in the community have already shoved down our throats for the past decade, don’t train Parkour when you’re injured, period. I did not take this advice seriously because although I tried, I clearly did not try long enough. With that being said, don’t stop working out or getting into other forms of training. I found that over time I became more and more comfortable with just not being active and that is a mental trap you do not want to fall into. It is the first step towards the slippery slope of a sedentary lifestyle. Keep working out! I took extra care of my upper body during this period to make sure when I fully recovered I could still do climb ups just as well as before surgery. I could still walk so I got heavily involved in Slacklining. Not only did it maintain my balance, but also ensured I was spending regular hours weekly outdoors and not confined inside with Netflix and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. Finally, I took up rock climbing because I still desired to be challenged, so what better sport to get into than a upper body heavy (kind of) sport rather than lower body heavy that relied on my knee. Do whatever it takes to keep your head in the game because it becomes too easy to lose sight. Just tell yourself all this will only help you bounce back faster once you recover.

Even if you must train Parkour, I have learned that really there is always a way. I thought because I’ve mostly lost the use of one of my legs that I cannot train at all, but that was simply not the case. I became much more proficient with skills utilizing only the right side of my body. Rail balancing, rolls, and climb ups were all still fair game. The point is, just because a portion of your body is injured does not mean you have to factor out all training. If you desire it enough, training can continue, just remember not to push your injury whatsoever. I remember seeing a video of a guy doing cork swing through corks with an arm in a sling. No excuses.

3. Do Your Research

Knowledge is power especially when you are injured. Take this time while you are injured to really familiarize yourself with the structure of the human body and proactive step you can take to accelerate the healing process. Unfortunately for me, my involvement in research into my own body only happened whenever I get injured. Avoid this by hitting the books today! The body is a complex vehicle that requires very specific exercising, hitting nutritional goals, and lots of high quality rest. And I must thoroughly emphasize these three points through my recent experiences. My first thought right after injury was to strengthen my body up again as soon as possible, however I had not rested enough to begin that process. By the time I did begin conditioning my knee, I did not consume enough or the correct foods to allow for steady recovery. Even finally when I did exercise and eat right, I was not achieving adequate sleep every night to see significant changes in the condition of my knee day after day. Once again, do your research, zero in on any information that could make you more knowledgeable on the state of your injury (not just the injury page on WebMD) so that you can prolong your career in Parkour.

4. Immerse Yourself In Another Hobby

With the absence of Parkour due to an injury, it will mostly likely create a void in your life, especially if you are a dedicated Traceur. However, understand that you now have much more time to further another passion or embark and find a new one. Learn to play an instrument, take up another sport that will not hurt for the time being, or spend more time with your non-Parkour friends that you’ve been neglecting! Just do something or you will find that you will become antsy and restless very soon.

5. Don’t Watch Parkour Videos

I’m joking about this one. At the same time, in all seriousness, watching Parkour videos while injured ranks as one of the saddest things a Traceur could do. At first the videos inspire you to go out and train hard, but you’re held back by your injury. With a persisting injury, your thoughts will turn to whether you will ever train again, regrets of never getting around to learning a certain move you saw in the video, or knowing that the skill level of the community is rising while yours has stayed the same or even declined. Go head, watch those new awesome videos your Youtube account or Facebook Feed has been recommending you to, but don’t tell you I did not warn you.

 

 

Written by

Wenxin Yang

APK Ambassador Wenxin Yang started Parkour in the fall of 2007. He was heavily involved in the University of Michigan Parkour club. He is now attending The Ohio State University studying business.