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Mark Bazer Headshot

When You Can't Catch a Break

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Here's what you don't want when you visit the ER for a sports injury. You don't want the doctor to tell you nothing is wrong with you -- and then offer you a sling on the way out like a pediatrician giving out stickers.

No, if you go to the ER, darn it, you want to hear about some broken bones, or at least some solid ligament damage. You don't need your injury entered into the next edition of medical textbooks, but you do want it to be legitimate.

About a month ago, I injured my shoulder fighting for a rebound "under the boards." Or, more accurately given my basketball abilities, I injured my shoulder under the boards while other people fought for a rebound.

The pain crept into my shoulder slowly, but by day's end I couldn't move the thing. The next day, it was far worse and, as I had plans to use my shoulder later in the week, I thought it best to head to my favorite ER.

The problem with going to the ER is you have to tell people. Your family, your boss, the Postal Service so they'll hold your mail.

These people all want to hear the whole story of what's going on. And like any story, they're going to want it to pay off in the end.

The last thing your boss wants to hear upon your eventual return from the ER is that you'll be keeping an icepack in the office refrigerator and that you may or may not be able to type for a few days.

The last thing your wife wants to hear is that you have some phantom injury that prevents you from pulling your weight at home.

They want to hear that you're in traction.

Not only did I not need traction but, according to my ER doctor and her little so-called X-Rays, I didn't need anything. Some ice, she said, particularly if I wanted to have a cold drink.

I threw out the exit paperwork, but I believe it said: "Patient strained his right shoulder. Millions of other Americans strained their shoulder at the exact same moment, but Patient was the only one to go to the ER."

I, though, had the last laugh -- because in the days that followed, the pain got worse. To the point at which my regular physician sent me to an orthopedic specialist. Things were looking up after all! There might be something legitimately wrong with my shoulder!

Again, I told my family and my boss. I skipped the Postal Service, as they had worried too much about me the last time.

The specialist first sent in a nurse. She asked a series of questions. The nurse sent in a med student, who asked the same series of questions and examined my shoulder. Then, the specialist arrived acting all specialist-ly. He asked the same series of questions (but much more confidently). Than he examined my shoulder with a little more force than the student.

Well . . . it turns out there's still nothing seriously wrong with me. Or there's a lot seriously wrong with me, but the shoulder isn't one of them.

I did just have my first physical therapy appointment, though. The guy says my shoulder woes are legit. And that he can fix them. I'll be seeing him four times a week for the next 35 years.