Here’s what I want you to know about injury recovery, all the things your doctor will forget to mention. Things I learned the hard way after going through rehabs for injuries including a broken back, obliterated shoulder, torn meniscus, and most recently, a torn ACL.
I want you to know about both time and memory, and how an injury will defy your previous relationship to both. What I mean is that during rehab, when you’re away from all the fun activities, time will C-R-E-E-P by. Each morning, it’ll feel like you can’t remember a day when your limbs functioned without requiring all your thinking. But a year and a half later, you’ll forget nearly all of it—how slowly it went, and how you used to have to think in order to open the fridge door.
I want you to know about wood floors, and how they are the key to your independence. You can make your own food, plate it, and then put said plate on the floor. Then, just use those crutches to slide the plate (or book, or computer, or water bottle) to the table (or more realistically, the couch). And, voila, no more need to ask your mom or roommate or partner for anything. And this independence will mean everything.
I want you to know about speaking up for yourself. Not getting good vibes from your doctor? Find another one. Don’t like the way your physical therapist or chiropractor adjusts you? Tell them, or find another one. Don’t feel like your trainer has ever helped someone with your type of injuries or recovery before? Crutch away, and find another one. There are a million ways to skin a cat and to rehab an injury, but at the end of the day, it’s your body, your money, and your future as a skier, so don’t be afraid to design your rehab community to be the best.
I want you to know about comparing yourself to the Norwegian who is rehabbing next to you and whose bloodlines could very well be traced directly to a Norse god. It’s a bad idea. Because even though you had the exact same injury, the exact same doctor, and the exact same physical therapists, your process will look, feel, and sound very different. What works for a 198-pound downhill skier, might not work for you. His comeback may appear cleaner than the calf-height white socks all the Norwegians wear, while yours might resemble the threadbare pair you’ve had since high school, but both comebacks will lead back to the snow. The type of socks you choose to wear is a topic for another time.
I want you to know about hobbies, and that you don’t need a new one because physical therapy is your new hobby. Endless, monotonous, painful, boring, tiny movements with simple contraptions like balls and straps and even just your arms and legs. If you’re doing it right, you won’t have endless amounts of free time to learn the guitar or write your memoir. Instead, you’ll have just enough time to work, train, and feed yourself before you fall asleep, fork in hand.
I want you to know about clichés, and how most of them concerning injuries are true. How you’ll come back stronger after an injury. How you’ll learn new things about yourself. How there will be a million silver linings that will continue to reveal themselves years later. I want you to know that the snow will fall again next season. And you will be able to ski it when it does.
Hadley Hammer is a professional skier who loves all forms of snow—from the hardpack lines of the Freeride World Tour and the deep powder she gets to ski when shooting for the silver screen, to the sastrugi she navigates on big ski mountaineering objectives around the world. Her life goals include carving the perfect turn on a remote Himalayan face and finding the perfect words to describe that turn. You can find more of her writing about skiing and life at hadleyhammer.com.