Injury time

The ambulance came tonight, for one of the rugby players who train on the field inside the track where I run.

When I arrived he was already injured and lying on an old-fashioned stretcher beside the seats and dressing room entrance. From what I saw of him, he looked like a speedy back rather than a hulking forward. His mop of curly black hair made him seem young. A team mate held his hand, while two older men stood and waited – obviously for an ambulance.

I can only speculate on what happened, as it didn’t seem appropriate to ask nosy questions. Most likely the lad broke his leg – otherwise he would have limped off to someone’s car to head to hospital. If it were his neck or back, the mood would have been more serious. At it was, his team mates continued training on the field. Between the injured party and the training session, I did my fast and slow laps on the track.

I haven’t had a serious injury yet. In fact, my only hospital time so far in my life was to get my appendix removed when I was seventeen. But I missed the 2009 Paris Marathon because of injury. One Sunday morning, about eight weeks before the race, I got out of bed for my long run and for my trouble I felt a pain like a cheesewire across the front of my lower right leg. Naturally, I went out for 15 miles on this painful leg. The next day I regretted it for sure; the cheesewire was now wrapped around my right calf. It was initially diagnosed by a non-sports physio as the dreaded shin splints, but a scan suggested that it was a calf muscle tear that would soon heal. Still, I was warned off running the marathon – and, showing some rare common sense, I paid heed to this advice.

Since then I’ve only had slight niggles, especially in my right knee – but nothing that some rest and recovery hasn’t sorted out.

That poor rugby player tonight has some time to go before he recovers. Presumably he’ll be in hospital for a night or two at least. (Thankfully, health care in France is excellent and health insurance affordable.) But he’ll surely miss work for a while – and he may be on crutches for a while more. What if his apartment building or local metro station only has stairs? How do you sleep with a cast on your leg? One simple injury can have a drastic short-term impact. Saying that, rugby players face greater risks than runners – serious neck and spinal injuries, for instance.

The ambulance that arrived was actually from a fire station; it pulled slowly onto the track just as I finished my training session. One of the first aid crew walked ahead of it – he spotted a player he knew, smiled broadly and gave his friend a cheery middle finger from afar. Life goes on.

Let’s hope the guy recovers very soon and returns safely to the sport and life he loves.

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