4 Inches of Pavement


file0001274325939I had just pinned the ball on the backboard. It was a thing of beauty. The type of thing they show on ESPN’s Top 10. I had already turned mid-air to outlet the ball. Let’s pause here.

11 years prior to this moment, I was about 50 feet away from my current air-born position learning to play basketball with my new best-friend Mike McLaughlin (in retrospect, having a best friend with the same first name is more of a hassle than anything else, likely resulting in Scotty being my nickname among my other friends). Basketball was life for the foreseeable future. Each summer day and evening, the neighborhood kids would all gather at Mike’s house because his driveway was the only one that had two basketball hoops. Hours and hours were spent on these courts, with the occasional break to jump in his pool, or eat some bologna sandwiches prepared by his mom.

I had the gift of genetics and a pre-mature entering of puberty to thank for my 5 foot 10 inch frame at 15 years old, which resulted in me being a stud on the middle school basketball courts. The teams were always decided by me and Mike. Dave Vater, our trusted third musketeer was always 1st pick, and the rest of the cast of characters would fall into place.

Un-pause. From three feet up in the air, I came down ready to hit my teammate with what would be a highlight worthy full-court bounce pass. Unfortunately, I came down literally on the edge of four inches of freshly laid down pavement. If you have never sprained your ankle, let me explain. My foot contacted the edge of the pavement resulting in an immediate inversion of my ankle (when your foot rolls under you). At the time, I did not even know the human body possessed the ability to move through these ranges of motion. My malleoli (little ankle knobby thing) literally hit the dirt next to the court.

I lay motionless on the ground after attempting the “I’m okay, I’m okay hop” that you see so many people attempt after falling off their skateboard, or doing something that would land them on Jackass. There was no walking this off. Actually, there was no walking for the following 2 weeks. I lay on the ground helpless. A grown ass man (or so I thought at the time), all 15 years of me, piled on the ground in a heap of tears and dirt gripping at my left ankle. I vividly remember Mike laughing, then realizing that this wasn’t the usual rolled ankle.

A blessing in disguise:

“A Grade II Inversion ankle sprain,” says my doc.

Shit. “Am I going to be able to play AAU basketball?”

I was assured that all I had to do was a couple months of physical therapy and I would be as good as new. I’d never been to physical therapy. No one I had ever known had been to physical therapy. So the next day my mom set up the appointment and off I was to meet up with Michelle. All 5 foot nothing of her.

How was this peanut going to do what she needed to do? I didn’t even know what she needed to do, but I knew she wasn’t going to be able to put me through the rigorous exercises my doctor had told me she would. But sure enough, within 5 weeks, she was kicking my ass. Sure, she had to get my swelling down, my pain reduced, and had to get me able to walk without a gangster limp before all of this, but she did. She did everything she promised she would and more. By the time I was done with each physical therapy session my clothes were soaked. I was like a sumo wrestler covered in a wool Snuggie in the Arabian desert kind of sweaty.

I was hooked at this point. I would call Michelle each week and ask if I could come observe patients during the week. She was ridiculously cool. She had no problem taking the time out of her day to explain what was going on with each person, and this is where I learned that PTs aren’t only practitioners, but teachers as well. I couldn’t believe that people got paid to do this. Hang out with active people, make them exercise, and problem solve on the fly? Tell me where to sign.

And as they say, the rest is history. A steady dose of science classes, and 2 years later I was at Northeastern University getting my BS in Rehabilitation Sciences, then Grad school for PT.

It’s funny how we end up on the paths we are intended to be on. But I can thank four inches of pavement for where I am today.

Always evolve,

Mike

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