How I went through shoulder surgery and back to roller skating

by Marta

Sooner or later most skaters have to deal with injuries. So did Breanna. In a series of articles, she writes about her experience. After she tore her shoulder labrum, Breanna had to have surgery to fix it. For more than a month she was not allowed to rollerskate. But even after getting a go from the doc this did not mean that she was able to skate again immediately like she used to before.

How it was to go through surgery

Surgery itself wasn’t bad at all! I was mentally, emotionally, physically prepared for what I was committing to. I trusted the medical professionals who would be performing the procedure on my shoulder. I knew the end pay-off was a fixed shoulder I can actually use instead of being constantly injured and in pain. I knew if I just took care of it and took the process of recovery seriously, on the other side I’d be stronger than ever because of it. It was a situation where I decided that my body and its health was my priority.

How it was to go through recovery

Recovery is simple but demands the most from you. Going to appointments or physical training isn’t hard, it’s just something you have to consistently show up to and they guide you through. Everyone who worked with me was invested in rehabilitating me from the surgery and their support was motivating to have. Consistency is key. You just have to take the time every day to do the exercises so you regain mobility and build your strength back. If you slack off you’ll most likely fall off the routine completely so it’s one of those things you just have to keep doing no matter how you feel on any given day.

The most difficult part of recovery for me was about two months post-surgery: you’ve had the surgery, your physical therapy is empowering you to feel like you’re able to do more, but it’s such a risky time because you’re still healing and could easily re-injure it by one wrong movement. You aren’t allowed to do stuff like park skating because of the risk of undoing the work you had done. But it’s been long enough you’re beyond antsy to get back to it. You start craving a skate and feeling impatient. You may rationalize some excuses to why you could just do it and be careful.

Back to skating again

When I was cleared by the surgeon to park skate again, I immediately took off my shoulder stabilizer and put on my skates for a celebratory skate at home. My body was definitely out of park shape when I returned, because I hadn’t been doing it every day like before. It took several weeks, I’d say almost a month, to feel like my skating was normal and “me” again. During that month I definitely focused more on my skate community, investing in them and being present more than my own skating. I didn’t expect myself to jump back 100%; I just eased back in and enjoyed every moment. I was actually nervous the first week doing simple skate moves just because I didn’t feel as confident after not doing it for two months. But the second I did it, it was all there. You just have to regain a little trust in yourself and your ability as a skater. Start with the basics and build back up into what you were doing. Before you know it you’ll be surpassing where you were before and thankful for the time you took away to recover your body.

Helpful things to do

Prepare and be proactive about your recovery! Don’t just expect the doctors to tell you everything you should or could be doing. They will most likely give you the minimum and expect you do follow through on your own. It helped me to do some research, one of the most helpful articles I read was “How to Train Through Injuries” by Jonathan Pope for T Nation. I used that advice to guide my recovery plan through every stage from the first week until I was fully recovered. I wrote out in my bullet journal a plan including a daily schedule of ‘when to do what’ to keep me on track every day. Since this was my first surgery, I prepared by reading articles from people who had similar injuries and their stories of recovery. I read what they did and tips on how to prepare: I made a list of items that are helpful to have, things to get done before I had my surgery, and meals to make ahead of time. I even wrote out a typical day with ideas of things I could do that would help speed my recovery, including planned rest.

Still a part of the skating community

I invested myself in our local Chicks in Bowls chapter, welcoming newcomers, teaching, and taking photographs for skaters. I focused more on being present and supportive to those around me, and I didn’t stop showing up at meet-ups even when I couldn’t skate quite yet. I began to get to know all the skaters (not just rollerskaters) who are a part of our local skatepark community. My vision for our community broadened outside my own circle by simply being there and supporting everyone.

When I couldn’t skate, I went to the gym to make my body stronger. I took walks every day and practiced breathing exercises. I worked on my mentality by reading books. All along this process, I was sharing my recovery on Instagram. I wrote memos to myself, journaled, documented my journey and tried to grow from it.

Making it through that time psychologically

Having support from friends and loved ones helps you feel less alone or isolated. My husband Kyle helped me day to day when he was home from work: from making meals to washing my hair, he always cared for me. I received cards with encouragement from several skating friends, family, and even Strong Athletic! The support I received helped me feel like other people wanted me to succeed through the recovery process; it was quite motivating. Strong Athletic sent me a kind card cheering me on, and gifted me a tank top that said “Strong” that I wore to remind myself: I am strong. Not just physically strong, but that I am a strong person! I was determined to remain positive, stay strong, and invest my energy into my recovery. Having support gives you extra strength to draw from. In addition, I truly believed from the beginning that I can make it through any obstacle and come out even stronger! My purpose during my recovery was to “repair, heal, rebuild, and remake” my body (and myself!) to be stronger. I kept that in mind always as my goal, and everything I did was a step closer toward that.

In the beginning stage of my recovery, I used my free time to read to improve on my mentality. I had a lot of time to process, think, and learn without being busy because my injury limited what I could physically do day to day at first. I identified some areas I needed to grow in that, which helped me become a stronger individual in my thinking and perspective. I’m grateful the time during my recovery I could commit to focusing on that without distraction. Maintaining a positive mindset and staying patient was possible because I knew this process would require me to have both, and I was determined to keep a strong mentality.

Here are some practical ways to apply a strong mentality to your recovery:

  • Deciding beforehand that you will have a positive, pro-active mindset will be the power that will get you through.
  • Be patient with the time your body needs to heal and fully recover. Patience is the hardest but most important aspect of rehabbing an injury that takes you out of an activity for a time.
  • Make the most of the time by investing yourself in other positive activities you enjoy or volunteer to help out your skate community in ways that aren’t physically demanding.
  • Let people support you and be there for you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a friend to drive you somewhere or come keep you company. Allow yourself to need their help, show gratitude and accept it.

If you’re going through an injury, I know it’s hard to take a break and time away to allow your body heal and recover. The time will pass and you’ll be back to skating. Don’t rush the time it takes and be patient with yourself. Skating will be there when you come back and your body will thank you for caring for it.

Words and photos by Breanna Simon
Graphic by Jonas Vietense

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