Publishers Note Reality Check

By Jay D. Prince

Last month I told you I was “back in the saddle again.” That may be true, but it’s been more like being bucked off of a bronco. While I can honestly say that my shoulder is holding up quite well, my ego and the rest of my body have been taking a serious beating.

Oh sure, I won that first “match” with my right hand, but reality quickly set in as I promptly proceeded to lose just about every day for two weeks. When I started playing with my left hand, I began keeping a list of players needing future payback with my right hand. Problem is I’m now adding to that list those who are still having their way with me while I’m back to using my right hand—including someone who slaughtered me during my first league match of the season.

But worse than losing is knowing that balls I can’t retrieve now used to be a walk in the park. The frustration that burns inside while I stand on the court watching another ball go by me is growing tiresome. The phrase I most commonly utter to myself these days is, “I’ll get that ball next month!” I’ve lost a step (or two, or three), and my endurance is abysmal. But who cares, right? Evidently my legs and back care far too much. As I write this, I’m still feeling the after effects of playing a match two days ago.

And ice has become my new best friend. I’ve spent more time with my shoulder smothered in baggies full of ice over the past few weeks than I ever have with any other injury. But it’s helping tremendously. My shoulder is virtually pain free the next day. My legs and back are a different story.

As far as my legs are concerned, they sometimes feel like they and my brain aren’t on the same page. My brain tells my legs to “hurry up and go get that ball,” while my legs respond with, “Are you kiddin’ me?” And when my legs do cooperate, my back screams right back at them. It’s amazing how difficult it is to get moving and then stop my body when the upper half feels like it’s twice the size as it was a year ago (and no, I haven’t turned into the Incredible Hulk; more like the Pillsbury Doughboy). So my first step is more like a futile attempt to drag my foot through molasses, while my first step toward the T after hitting the ball seems to leave the rest of my body behind. You know, where your legs actually do move, but the rest of you feels like it’s just being dragged along for the ride.

It’s been quite surprising to me how many of you have commented on the Notes I’ve written about my shoulder surgery and return to playing, which is the only reason I am prattling on about the agony of making a comeback. But I’ve also received numerous phone calls from players who are facing similar surgery and are looking for any help I can offer with respect to my experience.

At the end of the day, I’m extremely happy with the outcome of my labrum and rotator cuff repair. While the physical therapy was at times excruciating, the end result is a strong and stable shoulder that is slowly coming all the way back. The only piece of advice I will give, and it was offered to me just before my surgery, is to be sure to take full advantage of therapy. Not only did I not miss any appointments in my PT’s office (two and sometimes three each week for five months), but I also focused on doing all of the “homework” I was given to strengthen the shoulder and regain full range of motion. I’m about 95 percent back in terms of range, but I have a ways to go with the strengthening.

While I whine about the pain my body feels after I play, it’s the best pain I’ve felt in a long time. There’s nothing better than muscle soreness and stiffness after playing a game of squash, simply because it means I was on the court—and playing at full speed. It’s just too bad there are no Segway human transporters that would be suitable for the squash court. Maybe then I wouldn’t have to wait a month to get that ball that keeps going by me.