An Old Sledding Injury

My knee hurts this morning; I’m really hoping it’s not hurting tomorrow.

I’ve never had a knee injury per se. I’ve known lots of people who have had them and the consequent knee surgeries that follow. When I ask about the limp or the scars they always tell me, “It’s an old football injury, or an old skiing injury.” I don’t know anyone who limps with “an old sledding injury,” and I hope I’m not going to be the first.

With the recent snowfall the kids were begging me to take them sledding (sledging as they say here in Scotland), so Sunday afternoon I gave in. Jessie knew just the place and insisted that’s where we should go. It turned out to be a gentle hill sloping down into a quiet burn, perfect for kiddies, but nothing like the speed I was looking for.

We were using one of those moulded plastic sleds, which are perfect for children under four feet. Jessie loved it and I had all but resigned myself to just watching them. I wasn’t about to put my six foot frame into that tiny shell.

It was at this point a member of the church walked past and offered to let us use his old sled. He was long past the day when he or his children would use it; he was waiting for his young grandchildren to come ask for it.

So I said, “Sure, let’s have a look at it.”

It turned out to be one of those old fashioned ones with the metal runners and the wooden deck. I think it was homemade and looked like it was cut out of some old fencing. It weighed a ton and I wasn’t at all sure it would be of any use to us. But, I had nothing to lose and took it with me. The thing flies down the hill and, best of all, it’s big enough that I can ride it.

So, yesterday I took David (age 11) and his pal out to the local park where I knew there was a big hill that would give us the thrill I was after.

David took the first run and it was a good one. The rails on that big sled were like magic on the packed snow. He kindly offered me the next ride.

It all started well, but halfway down I looked ahead with some alarm and that little voice in my head said, How are you going to manage that bump up there?

It wasn’t long before I figured out how I was going to manage that bump: badly, very badly.

The trouble with the old rail system on these sleds is that there is no steering. Once you get started it’s a straight line to the bottom; ditto for the brakes. There are none.

In a flash I was tumbling headlong, summer-salting down the hill with a profound lack of grace. It was the tearing sound and the sharp pain I felt in both my knees that was disturbing. I hoped it was my trousers that were ripping.

I staggered to my feet with cold snow racing up my sleeves and down my neck. Incredibly I hadn’t smashed my glasses in the fall. I looked up the hill though and saw my sled, buried almost to the deck, not in snow, but in the dirt. Apparently I had come off the bump at a precipitous, nose first angle and, upon impact sunk the rails firmly into the earth.

Without a seatbelt the result was inescapable: an airborne passenger.

The strain to my knees, and I’m really hoping it’s only a strain, happened right after the impact; I had both feet wedged into the bar across the front of the sled and when I began my ascent over the bump, they stayed put, while my legs were forced into a hyper-extended, unnatural torque as my body careened forward.

As I said, I was able to get to my feet, but there were alarm bells in my head and red warning lights flying north from my knees.

I limped around gingerly for the rest of our time out, worried constantly that I would learn in the near future what it was like to have the fancy “keyhole surgery” on my knees.

This morning my right knee is fine, but the left is decidedly tender. There’s no swelling and I’m told if there was a real problem I wouldn’t be walking at all. I looked up www.netdoctor.co.uk and have diagnosed myself with a sprain. The Doc recommended rest, compression, elevation and ice. Apparently twisted knees are not all that uncommon.

I just wonder how many of them are old sledding injuries.

Addendum:
Just spoke to my friend who loaned us his sled. He said, “I always used to go down the hill on my stomach; that way you could steer with your feet.” Great tip, thanks!

He also told me about his 60 year old pal who was out sledding with his grandkids. “He was going down the hill and he hit a tree stump; no kidding aside, he ruptured his spleen!”

Maybe a wee sprained knee isn’t so bad after all?

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