At the end of last summer, Boy in Black had to stop playing Ultimate Frisbee – a sport he loves passionately – because of an injury that was diagnosed as a pulled groin. Rest was supposed to heal him, but it didn’t. All winter, Boy in Black went for repeated doctor visits and several rounds of physical therapy. Every time he got a new diagnosis, he’d come home and look up information on the internet. Then he’d go back to the doctors to ask why they hadn’t done this test or that test. (“That kid ought to be in med school,” our family doctor said to me.)
He had an MRI. He had X-rays. He had to keep fighting the insurance company that didn’t want to pay for physical therapy or expensive tests. He took antibiotics at one point with the theory that perhaps an infection was involved. An orthopedic doctor diagnosed the injury as osteitis pubis, an inflamed pubic bone, and sent him for a bone scan that involved him taking radioactive isotopes. But the bone scan came back negative. Four doctors, two physical therapists, and multiple tests could not pinpoint the problem.
Nothing helped. Boy in Black ended up sitting out of Ultimate for his whole junior year of college. He still went to every practice to support his teammates from the sidelines but he simply couldn’t play.
It was difficult to see how down he was. He didn’t complain much – he knew full well what a privileged life he still had, even with the injury. But he spent an awfully lot of time just lying on the couch, watching youtube clips of Ultimate tournaments on his laptop. He still practiced his throws constantly and talked about Ultimate non-stop. He convinced all his siblings and most of our extras to sign up to play on a Summer League team – and said he’d be willing to be captain of the team even if he couldn’t play.
He would hold family meetings to brainstorm ways to solve the problem. “What kind of expert haven’t I seen yet? Should I make an appointment with a urologist?” We spent most of the winter talking about his groin. The serious talk was mixed in with a constant sprinkling of jokes about his "junk." Whenever Boy in Black would come home, I’d look up and say, “How’s your groin today?” All of us – family, extras, his teammates – wanted desperately for him to heal.
Then an older player in the Snowstorm City League recommended his physical therapist. “Your insurance won’t pay for it, but go to him anyhow. He’s really good at figuring things out.”
Smart Physical Therapist listened carefully to his story – and then measured his legs. One seemed to be a little longer than the other. “It’s your SI joint,” the therapist said. “That’s causing the problem.”
“This is going to hurt,” he warned, and then yanked hard on his right leg until Boy in Black could hear it pop.
And that, pretty much, was it. In five minutes, the physical therapist diagnosed and cured an injury that had plagued him for nine months. A few days later, Boy in Black was playing Ultimate again.
He still had some pain and some inflammation so he took it easy at first, but he’s played a little more each week. Last week, he went to a tournament in Country to the North, and he played hard. He’s not 100 percent yet, and he's still going to physical therapy, but he’s healing. He’s looking forward to being back to full strength for his senior year with his college team, a group of guys who elected him to be a captain of the team even when he couldn’t play.
The best part is that he’s so damned happy. It’s great to see him smile again.
The photo was taken by Sunshine, one of his teammates. Ironically, Boy in Black is the kid in the photo wearing the white shirt. He only gets to wear black half the time at a tournament.