“on one leg you cannot stand”: the frustration of injury

Germans are so committed to convincing each other – and themselves – to have a second beer that there is a saying to deploy in such situations: Auf einem Bein kann man nicht stehen – literally, you cannot stand on one leg. This implies, somehow, that you can’t have just one beer and you need a second. Nevermind the fact that with each successive beer standing becomes generally harder and harder, no matter how many legs you started out with.

I sprained my ankle four weeks ago while playing ultimate frisbee. (Twenty-six days, to be precise, but who’s counting?) Since then I haven’t been able to stand on my left foot and have thus been using this idiom as often as other people will let me. It combines three things I love: sports, beer, and fun with language It’s also entirely appropriate because ultimate frisbee is a very, uh, beer-friendly sport where no one will let you get away with standing on one leg.

No sports for twenty-six days, and counting. In the depths of winter it would be easy, but we’ve just turned our clocks forward and spring is definitely here. Here in Rostock and northern Germany the sun’s been shining to an almost suspicious extent the past couple of weeks. And all I want to do is run outside and play, but noooo, pain and stuff. So far, I’ve had to turn down a beach volleyball hang-out on an evening that was upwards of 20°C, two ultimate frisbee tournaments in Berlin, and 4x my weekly badminton session and ultimate frisbee practice.

Over the years I’ve had the pleasure and honour of playing with very talented, very passionate and very hardworking athletes who dedicated themselves to both team and individual sports. Almost all of them faced injury at one point or another. I’ve seen the best of the best (of my league) fall and have to sit out for the entire season – for all the sports they played. It must’ve been awful to have worked that hard, to be that good, to love the game/sport so much, and not be able to take part for so long, all the more so during high school when every change felt like life or death and every year was ‘the year’. I marvel at their patience and maturity.

Compared to them, my situation is peanuts. A self-diagnosed grade-two sprain means I should be back on the field and on the court in another 3-4 weeks, fingers crossed. I wasn’t even all that good before the injury. But I really liked running, and running around. I love being outdoors. And this is my first ever experience of an injury that prevents me from doing that. I tell myself to be patient and to let the ankle heal fully, then ease it back into motion and stress. But I can feel my body becoming softer, weaker, slower. I’m frustrated and sullen.

Sure, there are things I can practise in the meantime: throwing (frisbee); cardio (cycling); and core/strength exercises. I could even take this opportunity to spend more time on non-physical pursuits like brushing up on German or French, or finally learning R, or playing the piano. But a big part of what makes life enjoyable for me would still be missing.

Becherovka: Disc in one hand, beer in the other

Last night, on a whim, I went to the annual meeting of Rostock’s ultimate frisbee club. They were all people I already knew and had played with for a year now. Not having been at practice for weeks, I’d missed them and wanted to show my face and say hi. And that’s when it struck me: somewhere along the way, this had become more than just about the sport. It was about the community and the awesome way everyone made me feel welcome from day one. If that’s not reason enough to engage myself in something and support it however Ican, I don’t know what is.

I paid my club member fees the very same evening.

Just over six weeks until the first beach tournament of the year.

Fingers crossed.

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