“You no longer have any restrictions, but you will certainly have some limitations. What those are, and how you manage them, is for you to figure out.”
These words from my orthopedic surgeon run through my mind daily. My ankle is still fucked. It will never be 100% again. The question is just how much I will regain, and how long that will take. It is still quite weak. It has limited flexibility. It hurts if quickly come down on it with a lot of force (e.g. running, “running out” of a trick, landing Primo, etc.). Stairs are difficult.
What does this mean for skateboarding?
The short version is that;
(1) There are a lot of tricks I can no longer do at all,
(2) There are a lot of basic tricks that are really sketchy/scary to do, and
(3) My ability to do “controlled falling” is not what it used to be.
I can not skate transition over 2’ high, because I can’t run out of bail with that much force coming down on my ankle, and it isn’t reasonable to think I’d be able to just knee slide out of everything. Nollies, switch ollies, etc., those are gone. Ankle just isn’t strong enough for them. Even regular ollies are weird, because my ankle does not have the fine motor skills anymore to guide the board with exact precision. Right now I am mostly just doing stall tricks on curbs/low ledges, and slappies, to get the muscle (new) memory going. Small transition is just basic lip tricks. Independent of my ankle, I have not seriously skated in nine months. The rest of my body also has to become reacquainted to the demands of skateboarding. So, there is a lot going on right now.
GOALS & EXPECTATIONS
I realize that I will probably never again skate like I once could. I return to skating with no expectations from before. That said, my goal is to skate at a level that is meaningful to me. Carving around a parking lot, with no tricks, is not going to cut it. So, the question becomes what is a “meaningful level”? As of now, my goals/hopes are:
-Basic curb tricks (slides, grinds, etc.)
-Basic tricks on very small transition (2’ and under)
-Carve around in bigger bowls
If I can get to that level, with some degree of consistency, I’ll be happy. And I feel fairly confident I will be able to—it just may take awhile. A dream situation would be to skate a 4’ mini ramp again.
STRETCHING / WARMING UP
My entire body, not just my ankle, needs to get in shape again. I have become really stiff. I need to stretch on a daily basis not just for ankle physical therapy, but to help with everything else, too. Before skating I now have to spend at least 5-8 min stretching out. This is not only to help get my ankle loose, but to help prevent strains, pulls, tears, etc. to other parts of my body.
There is a metal plate and screw in my lower leg/ankle. Even slight taps to that area cause tremendous pain. The scar tissue/incision area is really sensitive, and when the plate gets hit…game over. And as any skateboarder knows, getting hit in the ankle with your board (even lightly) is a very, very, very common thing. So, I need to add some protection to that area. I got a kid’s soccer shin pad, which fits right over the area and protects it nicely.
I cannot fully “run out” of bails. This causes me to fall sometimes on occasions that I never would have fallen before. My ankle sometimes betrays me, and causes me to collapse in pain (e.g. during a failed “run out,” or if I bail and land on foot with too much force/at an angle, etc.).
Because my ankle is weak, slow, and stiff right now, I no longer have the same capacity to do “controlled falling” (to the extent I ever did before). We all know that “controlled falling” is an essential skill to skateboarding. Sometimes I go down in very awkward ways now.
Then there is the “mental game.” I will be 100% honest—a lot of skateboarding scares me right now. Fear of reinjury to my ankle. Fear of serious injury to some other part of my body because I can’t properly fall because of my ankle. Reinjury Anxiety is a REAL thing.
So, the obvious conclusion here is that for the near future I absolutely should be wearing knee/elbow pads anytime a “run out” might be required. Grinds, slides, transition, etc. Yet, I haven’t always done so. Somewhere in my head I hear this voice saying, “You don’t need pads to skate a curb or a 2’ tall quarter-pipe.” Truth is, right now I actually do. Maybe there is also some level of shame in there, too? I’m not sure what it is all about. I just know what logic tells me to do verses what I actually do. Sometimes there is a gap between those two. I’m working on that.