Reliving the Glory Years

Dear MotionWorks Family,

November is one big month of transition. Leaves to no leaves. Color to well, brown with some moderating shades of black, white, and grey. And somewhat a little bit warm to, well, not warm at all, so it might as well, (gasp!) SNOW!

Sometimes life is transitional too, coming full circle when you least expect it. This month I have been thinking about the glory days. Not the Packers glory days. No, we are not touching that one.  No, I'm talking about my couple of years in high school sports where the next game was everything and beating your next town over rival was life or death in consequence. I remember some really great times with our girls basketball team, some great comebacks, some great almost beat the eventual state Division IV Champion moments, the blocked shots, the amazing three pointers.  But right now I am honing in on one game in particular.

It was a cold and wintry January night when we played our biggest rival Coleman, from one town over. We had lost to them in a nail biter one month earlier, but we had not lost to any other teams, making us one game back in the M&O Conference race. The build up to the game could not have been bigger. Unofficial bets were on between the boys and girls basketball players.  Rumors were going around school that the Green Bay TV crews might be coming up to cover the game. This time with Coleman at our home court, we felt confident we could beat them.

Fast forward to the fourth quarter, 40 seconds left in the game, the Lena Wildcats (my team) were behind by 4 points. With packed stands, rollicking fans with not a soul left sitting in the crowd, no one in that gymnasium thought it was over. A girl from the opposing team was taking the ball all the way down the court on a fast break. I couldn’t let that happen. No easy shots. If you were going to foul, foul early before the shot. Although they were in the bonus, she wasn’t that great of a free throw shooter (or so I hoped). I raced in from behind, stepping in front of the girl driving at full speed across mid court towards the three point arc.  I leaned in hard, trying to knock the ball away without causing a foul. While only successful enough to knock her out of her rhythm on the fast break, I felt the crushing pain of her knee crashing into my low back. I went flying across the floor. I’m not even sure what happened for the next several seconds.

Jill Murphy basketball

I slowly came to my senses when the whistle blew.  Obviously someone else on my team had finished the job on the driving opponent, but got called for a foul. I could barely stand up straight, barely walk to my spot to line up down low for the free throw. As I was wondering what had just happened to my back, I remember trying to catch the eye of my athletic director in the corner of the gym. Take me out, my eyes told him, can’t you see how much pain I’m in? Take me out, I’m probably not in good enough playing condition to help my team out at this point anyway. Of course, he didn’t get my psychic message, and play went on.  And there was no way I was taking myself out of this game at this moment.

I remember the girl missing the shot, and suddenly our team had the rebound, and on the other end of the court someone tossed me the ball near the three point line. We had to score quickly, so I ducked my head and drove hard to the basket. Two points down.Two more points needed to tie. The crowd went crazy.  Somewhere in the next 15 seconds we made a defensive stop on the other team, and a teammate of mine ended up on the free throw line with 2 seconds left. “It’s in,” I told her confidently before she shot. Sure enough 2 shots later, we were tied, with no time left on the clock.  The crowd roaring so loud at this point, I literally covered my ears.

The first overtime was a snoozer, as if both teams had already played out all the drama we had left in us. But by the second overtime, the Lena Wildcats took over, shooting the lights out with little competition from the opposing squad. We won, 66-55. It was my highest scoring game of my career, 33 points, including 7 points in the 2nd overtime session. But I could not handle the hugs of adoring teammates and fans. I could barely walk the 22 stairs down to the locker room. My back felt stiff as a board, with the pain in my back now extending to my toes on one side. A bittersweet victory indeed.

Why go into such drama some 22 years later? Well, I kind of needed to, sorry. You see a week ago I had to address that level of my back that had completely deteriorated to nothing- with my disc having come out in literal chunks four times in the past year.  So I had to relive the glory years to determine if all of this was worth it.  Worth it, you say? Why yes, was it worth the pain and agony for all of these years for one amazing conference championship win? Well, when you put it that way, it’s as if I had a choice. Injuries happen all the time, all with different repercussions, none by choice. I can hear my farming family saying now what a waste it all was to play sports, to end up with a spine fusion at age 40. Yes, I can see your point.

However, the experiences that I gained while treating this on-going back injury for the past 22 years are exactly what peaked my interest and forced me to specialize in learning how to effectively treat the spine as a physical therapist. Trust me, I was the only athletic trainer in undergrad interested in things like SI joint dysfunction, disc herniation, and sciatica. Battling a difficult to overcome injury at age as a freshman in college forced me to try everything, from chiropractic to McKenzie method, muscle energy techniques, and joint mobilization and manipulation. What an education! And then I found some really great mentors, who really understood the spine, how to treat it, and how to return to high levels of function despite it.  And you know what?  It worked!  It gave me 22 great years of running marathons, popping out babies, gardening, landscaping, and building our home!  It even gave me the confidence to open my own practice, since it is so hard to find clinicians who truly understand spinal dysfunction.

So in this dreary month of November, I could look outside and think how tough I must have it to have had to undergo such a major surgery at a young age, or I can choose to be thankful to God for everything this injury has taught me. Without a doubt I can say that this back injury from 22 years ago is what made me into the empathetic, knowledgeable, spine specialized physical therapist that I am today. It has enabled me to help so many, knowing that there is life and sports left to live and play even after a serious back injury. So in a sense, it was really a blessing to have been injured during that basketball championship game; not only for me, but for all of my spine patients past, present, and future. I’ll take that anyday (and of course, my glory year memories), and try to remember that when it takes me multiple attempts to get out of bed tomorrow morning.;)

Our MotionWorks family wishes you the Happiest of Thanksgivings to you and your family! Remember that life will throw all kinds of crazy and unexpected things our way, but it’s our attitude in response towards those things that determine how the story ends!

Gratefully yours,
Dr. Jill Murphy
Owner/Physical Therapist
MotionWorks Physical Therapy