A week ago, about two thirds of the way through the act I was performing, I felt a crrrrrunch in my rib cage. I was lifting into a meathook from a bit of a side-to-side sway, a move I had rehearsed dozens of times, but this time, as my hips lifted to bring my legs up and over into a pike around my arm, something in my ribs moved in a way that ribs should very definitely not move. I finished the act – adrenaline is an amazing drug – and went back stage to apply an ice pack and take some ibuprofen. I wasn’t in terrible pain, but when I went to sit down to watch the rest of the show, I felt another shift and a sharp jab and thought….”Crap. I’ve gone and injured myself.”
In the 10 years I’ve been training in the aerial arts, I count this as my third significant injury – by which I mean something that kept me on the sidelines for more than a day or two. Interestingly, the first one was essentially the same as this latest one, except less severe – I pulled some intercostals performing a meathook in a performance. But that was 8 years ago and I was inexperienced and tired and improvising and really had no business doing that move. I’ve treated it with great respect since then, as my students can attest to – and yet it still came back to bite me in the ass. Or the ribs, as the case may be.
(The other injury, since you’re probably wondering, involved landing on my head while working on back circles on trapeze. No concussion, but I had vertigo for about three weeks until a miracle worker in the guise of a physical therapist fixed it for me. If you fall on your head and get vertigo, go see Michele Frances!)
So, how should I feel about this injury? I didn’t fall, wasn’t trying something out of my range, didn’t make any glaring errors – wrapping wrong for a drop, missing a catch, etc – and I was properly warmed up. I didn’t feel like adrenaline got the better of me – I was aware of it and consciously harnessed it earlier in the piece, in fact. Looking at the video, it seems like I simply timed the move a bit wrong. I’ll probably be out of aerial commission for a month or two, but conveniently was just about to take a short sabbatical from my studio anyway. I won’t need surgery, or really any treatment other than rest and careful exercise to keep the blood flow to the area so that the cartilage can heal.
Given all that, I am finding it hard to feel bad about hurting myself. Which leads me to wonder….should we accept injury as a fact of life for professional aerialists? We downplay it to insurers, we do everything to prevent it for our students, and yet….how many aerialists reading this have never had an aerial-related injury of any kind? Many are from overuse or improper technique, and those we strive to avoid as instructors. But sometimes…shit happens.
I wrote a related post back in January (“When in Doubt…Get Down”) and I hate to sound like a broken record. But I think it’s important to remind everyone that even well-trained, well-rehearsed, healthy, strong aerialists get hurt. Then again, you can also break an ankle stepping off a curb wrong, or crack a rib by coughing too hard. At least I got injured doing something I love….and it sure makes for a great story at the chiropractor’s office.