Beware of leisure time dangers

I don’t recall ever injuring myself while at work.

Well, there was that one time on a construction job during summer break from college. I got my foot caught under a piece of equipment and scraped my big toe a bit. That got me out of a ditch for about 45 minutes. And once I stayed in the bottom of a ditch—different ditch—with a jack hammer all day in 95-degree heat and similar humidity, but the only real damage from that was the split in the seat of my britches, more humiliation than hurt.

And I caught a stick on the nose once while chopping wood with my son. That took about five stitches, but that chore was more like recreation than work.

On real jobs—the ones that help pay the mortgage, buy groceries and other basic necessities (boat payments, etc.)—the record of on-job injury is pristine. It’s difficult to injure oneself on a keyboard. Of course I have been around heavy equipment, livestock and snaky places on farm visits, but I’ve never experienced any calamities.

It’s when I’m at leisure that I am most vulnerable to mishap.

I sprained my ankle badly one time playing basketball long after my less than stellar high school career was over. I banged up an elbow trying to kick a soccer ball in deck shoes on wet grass. I suffered heat exhaustion while running the Peachtree Road Race in Atlanta with 25,000 of my closest friends—ended up in the hospital with IVs in my arms and unable to remember my phone number.

And now I have a bum knee, thanks to a well-camouflaged pothole in a murky stream that’s usually crystal clear and teeming with trout.

Locals gathered at a mom and pop grocery-bait-café-pit stop near the river said the year-long drought and subsequent wildfires turned the river into chocolate milk. Recent rains—much needed—simply washed the gray ash of nearby wildfires into the river, putting the fish off their feed and making treacherous potholes virtually invisible.

I found one—pothole, not fish. As my right leg hit the slippery bottom of the hole, my upper body continued to move forward. The right knee locked up and I felt something stretch in the back of my knee and noticed a bit of a popping sound. And my leg felt funny.

I hobbled back across some slick rocks, dragged my wobbly leg through swift water and limped back to the truck. Ted, my fishing buddy and philosophical guide and mentor, suggested that I quit whining and get in the truck.

By the time we got home the knee was so stiff I couldn’t put weight on it and I began to consider the possibilities—ACL, MCL, surgery, weeks of rehab, no more fishing. I typically go to the worst possible outcome and then work my way backward as symptoms decrease.

By Monday morning the symptoms had not decreased so I went to my doctor, who poked on my knee, twisted it this way and that and had me explain how I hurt it. Fishing injury. She smiled as she wrote out a prescription for a muscle relaxer, advised me to keep ice on it, stay on crutches for a day or two and keep it elevated. Pulled tendon, she said, no damage to the knee.

Just as I suspected.


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