Uncle Dave Broke Himself (again)
Ask Uncle Dave

Uncle Dave Broke Himself (again)

Words Dave Tolnai
Date Apr 16, 2018

You can usually sense ahead of time when your temptations of fate are going to come out wrong. "There seems to be a lot of people getting old man injuries lately."  This statement felt harmless. Innocuous. But there it was. Just noticing the pulled muscles and the bad backs and the torn Achilles tendons was enough for things to turn on me.

It didn't even take 24 hours. We had a bit of time to kill and it was a nice day out, so we thought we'd go hit the tennis ball around. We shanked a few balls, and were barely even at the point of "warmed up." One of the 6 balls that I managed to hit was out there a tiny bit further than I needed it to be. "Did it feel like you got shot in the leg?" was what the physiotherapist would ask me later. "Yes! Yes! That's what it felt like. Not like a major gun shot. But a minor gunshot. Like a really large pellet gun, or a really small cannon."

I hobbled over to the side of the court. I sat down for a while. The courts were pretty busy, so there were people everywhere. So I tried to do what everybody does whenever they get injured in front of others; get the hell out of there as quickly as possible. I hobbled away, and then I hobbled right on back. Okay. You go get the car. I'll wait here.

We debated going to a walk in clinic. It seemed like a bit of a hassle, but things started to feel like they were going to hurt a hell of a lot more, very quickly. We made a joke about knocking on the door of our slightly anti-social physiotherapist neighbour. Which turned into a pretty good idea to phone around and see if any physio clinic had a last minute appointment on Easter Monday. One did, so that's where we went.

"It looks like you tore your calf muscle. It's not too bad. You'll have to keep your weight off of it for a week or two. Try to come back in the next few days."  He laughed when I asked about riding bikes. "You shouldn't even be driving."

In the grand scheme of things, this was pretty decent news. Shit, I almost looked forward to a couple of days on the couch, not moving. He hooked me up to some machines, blasted me with different forms of electricity, and then I hobbled off on crutches.

The next day sucked. I could barely do anything for myself. I had a relay system worked out for whenever I wanted to carry something across the room. I'd place it right over there, then hobble on over. Then I'd move it over onto another object, and hobble on over. I'd get to the couch and realize that I'd forgotten something and then I'd repeat. I can't imagine keeping this up for an extended period of time.

I had another physio appointment lined up for the afternoon. Much of the morning was spent mapping out a bus route that limited the amount of crutch work necessary. The end solution involved a couple of buses and a few waits. The 100m crutch over to the bus stop was way harder than I anticipated. How the fuck do people live with these things?

Physio was more prodding. More electrocution. More slimy gels. He dug a new machine out of storage that did something else. Things felt okay. He told me I could put some weight on it if it didn't hurt too bad. This was progressing nicely.

I repeated my bus ride home. Even in this state, I have a hard time treating myself to a cab ride. I thought it was interesting how everybody just avoids the guy on the crutches. Like the weakness took me down a few notches in their estimation. Not that I really needed the help or anything, but you'd figure a pair of crutches might earn you the right-of-way in most scenarios. But, being me, I was almost happy for the anonymity. Then the guy started talking.

"What'd you do?"

Well shit. I don't want to admit that? I mean, people have worse stories for their injuries. Warming up to play tennis isn't the worst of them, but it's not a very good one either.

"I hurt my calf playing tennis."

"Oh ya? I live across from a tennis court. People seem to injure themselves all the time."  We would soon figure out that it's the one where I hurt myself. "I just got off crutches myself. Started off in a wheelchair. Moved to a walker. Then to crutches. Now I'm walking on my own."

He showed me his medic alert bracelet.

"I have to wear this all the time. Severe brain trauma. I was in a bike race and I crashed."

He didn't really remember the details, but it was enough to put him in the hospital and into a wheelchair. He told me a bit about his recovery. I asked him if he was back on his bike yet, and he told me that he can't ride or drive because he has no peripheral vision now.

I felt even more embarrassed about my crutches and my tennis injury. It was like bumping into Wayne Gretzky at a party and then having him ask you about your beer league hockey games. Our two injuries were just not even close to being in the same league and I had no right to be talking about mine.

He told me about how thankful he was that he was getting better. About his new appreciation for things. About how hard he had to work to just do something basic that he had taken for granted. Then he got off the bus and walked over to his apartment. It really was directly across from the tennis court. He had probably chuckled a bit when he saw me hobbling around the day before.

Our conversation had touched on themes that had been bumping around in my head that day. About how I'm lucky that I have a job that won't fire me if I don't show up for a couple of days. About how lucky I am to have somebody that can cook me dinner and fetch things for me around the house. About how lucky I am that I'm probably only going to be put out for a couple of weeks due to my stupidity and my shitty exercise regime.

But I've read this story before and it's kind of... How many times have we heard about this new appreciation for life after something impacts it? Why does it take talking to some guy on the bus who has come back from the worst of it to do any sort of soul searching? Why does it take experiencing something ourselves to generate any real sympathy for others who have lived through/are living through, way worse? And even this is a really poor take-away. We tend to only notice major incidents. We only pay attention to something that is a big fucking deal, and we walk right on past the day-to-day. And that goes back to my initial observation. There's a lot of dudes experiencing old man injuries these days. Slip on some ice and blow an achilles. Sleep wrong and mess up your back. Play some tennis and tear your calf muscle. The truth is that most of us aren't more than a few decisions away from having a really shitty year of recovery. My 3rd physio appointment proved as much, when I again asked when I would be able to ride my bike.

"Your bike? Jesus. Give it another week, at least. You're really lucky you didn't tear your achilles tendon."

Do your stretches, kids. Or something. We haven't reached that point yet in my treatment.


Uncle Dave

Uncle Dave's Music Club

A few months ago, I asked one of my younger co-workers what  music he thought old people listened to. He didn't understand the premise of my question. So I had to paint a picture of an out of touch thirty-something... a balding hipster, pushing a baby carriage down Main Street on his way to a kid friendly microbrewery tasting lounge. I asked him what he imagined that guy listening to.

"I don't know... Some like...old Kanye, or something like that?"

This didn't help me, at all. I think this is the wrong guy to be looking at though. I probably should have described a pot-bellied guy in a blue jays hat and a Burrows jersey. I can imagine the balding hipster listening to Animal Collective, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Either Dave is too injury-absorbed to answer your questions, or they weren't good enough. Knowing Dave I'd say it's door number two people - so get your act together so we can give out some prizes! We'll have some sweet adornments from Renthal for the next Ask Uncle Dave, so entertain the man through his convalescence with your questions. Send 'em here...

Trending on NSMB


+1 goose8
Dave Smith  - April 16, 2018, 7:34 a.m.

I think this might be more appropriate given the topic.



+2 Dave Smith Mammal
Cr4w  - April 16, 2018, 3:54 p.m.

A good reminder for the many people in my life who said 'lift weights? do yoga? pfft I get all the training I need on the bike' who have been constantly sidelined by preventable injury. Keep doing your rehab and prehab!


+1 ZigaK
Dave Tolnai  - April 16, 2018, 8:28 p.m.

Well.  Technically.  The tennis is one of those things that I would theoretically do to stay in shape aside from riding.


Mark  - April 20, 2018, 7:22 a.m.

The disconnect between what we could do physically as kids vs what we can do as adults is something that's far too prevalent. The good thing is that people can do some relatively easy things that will have noticeable payback in terms of overall physical abilities and quality of life. I'm constantly telling people that time or being busy is never an excuse to not do some sort of resistance and mobility exercise.


Hayden.Cameron  - April 16, 2018, 5:30 p.m.

Not sure if you planned the "old kanye" line in response to Mike Levy's intro paragraph on his Cane Creek Ti cranks review.....



Dave Tolnai  - April 16, 2018, 8:19 p.m.

No.  Sadly.  But I will take a look.


Kos  - April 16, 2018, 7:41 p.m.

Good column.  Bonus points anytime for seamlessly working a mention of The Great One into anything!


+1 Mammal
Jonas Dodd  - April 16, 2018, 8:44 p.m.

I worked at Our Community Bikes (a shop in Vancouver that sells used bikes and has tools and workstands for rent) from 2003-06. I had lots of good and weird times there.

95% of the customers were alternative folks, mostly nice people with a smattering of genuine freaks. One day a guy comes in and says he's looking for a bike and that it'll be his first bike in something like 5 years. "Oh really," I say, "why five years?" He explains that he was mountain biking on the north side Burnaby Mountain (which has cliffs up to roughly 100' high), before they put the fences in (at said cliffs) and he inadvertently rode over one of them, breaking many bones and ending up in coma followed by years of physio and rehab at GF Strong (a head injury clinic). He was so thrilled to finally be at the point where he could consider riding again. He test rode a couple of bikes then purchased one rode off on it.

I feel something like you did, Dave, as I contemplate the relatively minor injuries I've suffered while riding in comparison to his life changing experience.


cxfahrer  - April 16, 2018, 10:48 p.m.

One always lives one step away from where it really hurts.

Sunday I was on a scaffolding visiting the construction of a famous' architects (Niemeyer) new building, when I lost my balance just so slightly.There was no handrail. I would have fell down 30ft if my wife had not catched my arm...she did not notice there was no handrail.

And BTW, at near 60 I still like to listen to the music I liked when I was 10. Or when I was 30 (think Pictures of Matchstick Men by StatusQuo/CamperVanBeethoven).  Is there a newer version beside Kasabians?


ZigaK  - April 17, 2018, 12:13 a.m.




ZigaK  - April 17, 2018, 12:17 a.m.

I am in a solid shape for a guy my age (44). But if I venture to some sort of physical activity that I don't practice every day, it gets pretty dangerous. The other day I was doing push ups (to show my kid how it's done), long story short, the whole week after that I was doing everything with my left hand only.


UFO  - April 20, 2018, 3:57 p.m.

I'm just starting my 4th month of recovery now after straining my back, resulting in back and leg spasms, sciatica, and sleepless nights. For the first 3 months I wondered if I could ever do things I like to do again the same way. I've ridden my bike twice in this period, and the most recent time reaggravated a bad knee which may or may not be due to compensating around the original back injury.

Old man problems indeed, all at the ripe age of 36.


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