Friday, January 4, 2013

A New Year, a New Promise - Part Two

I'm just not good at writing. It's such a chore for me. I don't possess a great vocabulary, and any creative skills I have are clearly lacking when it comes in this craft. So please bear with me as I attempt to write part two of "A New Year, A New Promise". It's been a rough 2 weeks (but also filled with many blessings), so I'm just going to do my best at laying out the facts. I've actually been doing quite a bit of writing on my Facebook page, so that's another source of updated information for anyone who might be interested.

The result of the fall on December 23 is that I fractured my left femur. After the surgeon, Dr. Steve Kurtin, saw the initial x-ray, and considering my relatively young age and high activity level, he suggested that we go with a complete hip replacement rather than just replace the ball of the femur. The result of x-ray showed that I had some progressive arthritis in the hip socket. After learning that, I began to realize that the pain and stiffness that I had been experiencing in my left leg over the past few years, was not necessarily a matter of a stiff muscle or tight connective tissue, but most likely the arthritis that the doc discovered. That was the other reason why DR. Kurtin wanted to do a complete replacement. With the worn out, arthritic hip socket, he didn't want to see me returning in a few years to get that replaced.

After I've gotten through a good amount of my recovery and my biking form has returned, it should be interesting to see how different this leg might feel without the arthritis. There's also been another interesting phenomenon I've discovered since my surgery. For as long as I can remember...maybe 20-30 left leg has always had a tendency to toe out some, compared to my right leg. Until this past year or so, as I've studied my bike positioning more and more, I came to the conclusion that this "misalignment" was not initiating from my knee, foot, or ankle as I had thought for so many years. Rather, the misalignment was coming from the hip joint.

I remember considering this discovery a couple months a go, and even discussing it briefly with my friend and co-worker, Phillip Godkin, who serves as a professional bike fitter at the shop I work at, Wheel & Sprocket Northshore. Even with just a brief examination, Phil could also see that the misalignment was indeed coming from the hip. But the question that still remained was the source of the misalignment a result of soft tissue problems, such as muscle imbalances and/or tight connective tissue, or was a bone deformity? I had done regular stretching over the past few years, not necessarily to re-align the leg, but more so to just minimize any stress that it might be causing on my muscles. And for the past 3 years or so, I even did some experimenting with cleat alignment and using various wedges on my cleats and in my shoes. At times, it felt that there were small improvements in how my foot to hip structure felt, as far as alignment and power transfer went. But in the end, nothing seemed to make a significant improvement. And the same lack of stability and inability to transfer power to the left pedal as well (compared to the right leg) that has plagued me for years was still there. The muscle tone in my right leg proved that it had become the primary source of propulsion while riding, and the left leg was just doing...well, what it could until fatigue or injury would set in. It was the left knee that initially gave me problems when I first began to get serious about ultra-marathon cycling back in the early '80s. And in retrospect, it's quite possible that this is when some hip problem began to rear it's ugly head.

And in these more recent years after returning to the sport, it was always the left leg that was the first to fatigue when nearing the end of one of my longer rides, 120 miles or more. And when I did my record breaking ride last August, it even got so bad that the left leg was hardly much more than useless weight that I had to keep moving rather than 1/2 of the source of my propulsion.

Well, after my surgery, I immediately noticed a very interesting change in the natural position of my leg and how it aligned up with the center line of my body. For the first time in my life, for as long as I can remember, my left leg didn't naturally toe out. It now hangs there straight, and in line with the center line of my body. Even when looking ahead, and I feel that my left leg must be toed out, I look down and with a sense of amazement discover that it is actually sitting perfectly straight.

It will be interesting to see how this new alignment might affect my cycling. I'm obviously curious to see if there is any change and improvement in how stable my left foot feels on the pedal compared to all the years previous to the surgery. Will that "new" leg enable me to, for the first time since I began long-distant cycling, a new sense of power? Will that new leg for the first time be able to work as hard as the right leg, so that muscle tone might actually become equal to the right leg? Right now I have a long road of recovery ahead of me. And it's strange to even think about it this way, but is it possible that this accident will actually result to be a blessing in the end?

Well, I'll just put any expectations away for the moment. I'm just happy that this happened to me in a day and age when hip replacement is quite refined. I've been told that new ceramic and titanium hip will last a long time, and hopefully for the many, many miles ahead of me. Maybe even longer than the ceramic and titanium parts on my  bike?!

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