Get Into the Game: Weird Injuries and the Spirit of Resilience


By Kristy Barry

Photo courtesy of Kristy Barry.

Last week, I screwed up my ankle and—as I gripped ice packs, bellowed wails, and called my mom–I reminisced about painful injuries I’ve sustained in my life.

In my pursuit of odd sports around the world, I have fallen off an ostrich, taken repeated punches to the face in chessboxing, and nearly concussed myself playing underwater rugby. Even my big toe has suffered agony in learning about the sport of toe wrestling but then again, my toes could’ve fallen off during the Santa Claus Championships when I braved the nuclear-cold to film faux Santas scaling chimneys for speed contests.

Mainstream sports aren’t any safer. In volleyball, I’ve twisted my ankle, stoved my thumb trying to set serves, and dislocated my knee jumping up for a spike and landing on the blocker’s foot. In softball, I’ve injured myself sliding headfirst into bases, getting hit by fast pitches in the soft muscle of my calves, and busted my ankle missing a high pop fly in center field.

Of the times I hurt myself the most though, it’s the times I’m clumsy or unfocused or overly excited.

I ran a muddy 5k through the woods with zombie-impersonators chasing me, and the only physical ailment I endured was throwing up after biting into a fake blood tablet for a dramatic effect in the video. A week later, on the morning of Halloween, I jumped up and down. I was so giddy that said video would run on, that I ran downstairs— well, rolled down the stairs. My back hit the edge of every wooden step on the way down, busting up my back so badly that I had to go to the doctor. I ended up wearing a back brace for two months, and not even codeine dulled the agony.

Photo courtesy of Kristy Barry.

At least no public humiliation was at stake. Recently at the gym, I fell off a treadmill. I was listening to music, powering through the run, and probably admittedly admiring studs playing basketball in front of me. Then suddenly, I went from using my feet to using my arms, to hold onto the side hand-railings as the treadmill belt kept spinning. Just kept telling myself I needed to hoist myself back up by my arms and I’d be okay.

My hips and legs were dragging on the treadmill conveyor belt to the point where I looked down to see my pelvic bones sticking out and my underwear being pulled down—that I was getting “pantsed” by the treadmill. To let go when you know you’re falling to your own detriment, is an unnatural decision and a weird sensation. So I abandoned ship, face-planted, and slung-shot myself into the elliptical machine. My pants then hooked into the screws on the floor of the elliptical.

“But I was just running peacefully before that?” I told myself. “What happened?”

My adrenaline flares up, a song infiltrates my bloodstream, and I’m on a Care Bear cloud somewhere–dreaming about Custard Pie Throwing Championships and that I better look good doing it. Just get one little Katy Perry tune in my head and just watch the mistakes I make.

I scraped my shin not once, but twice, attempting box-jumps that were a bit too high. These brown shin-scars will probably follow me to the grave.

My sister asked me if I wanted to go to England to cover the Shin-Kicking Championships next month. I shivered and said if I wanted to beat up my shins, I could just go to the gym for 4-foot high box jumps… with an ice machine nearby.

The ankle woe of last week can be blamed on wearing heels the night before going to the gym for side-planks, weight lifting, Kettlebell swings, and running to Katy Perry songs. Nothing popped or cracked or swelled while I exercised, but while enjoying a smoothie afterwards, the pain became so excruciatingly unbearable that I sobbed like a baby (human or otherwise) for the next four hours and burned through eight ice packs.

I knew I needed to recover fast, because in three days, I’d be running the Spartan Race at Citifield. Sure, I could just sit on the sidelines to film the event. But on the morning of the race, I wrapped my ankle as my running crew arrived at my apartment with fresh mohawks and black face-paint under their eyes–and the feeling that my odd sports adventures would be halted made my stomach churn. I would not be the woman on the sidelines, handing out chirpy little cheers, Clif Bars, and Aleve. Well, just Aleve.

Someone asked me about my ankle and I said, “Sometimes you just have to pop some Aleve and go for it.”

The Spartan Race tested me with runs through the upper deck, five flights of stair-hopping with rubber bands clasping my ankles together, heavy jump ropes, push-ups, burpees, rope climbs, wall climbs, carrying big jugs of water up many stairs, monkey bars, spear-throwing, squats, and carrying sand-bags. My puffy ankle ached, throbbed during stair-hops, but I could still jog throughout the obstacles and on to the finish line.

Excuses existed to back out of the Spartan Race, to save myself for the softball season and a summer of even more zany adventures. But I got to do push-ups in the locker room where David Wright gets naked, and run around the field at Citifield under a brilliant 5 pm Saturday sun with some fellow hardcore athletes alongside me. We completed every obstacle, except the rope climb. We didn’t bother with our race-time, more focused on finishing in style—and scoring solid video footage at the same time. It’s footage I can watch when I’m someday dilapidated, like a marionette who loses all of her strings, yet insists her Clif Bars be liquified and starts a motorized wheelchair derby league.

Over a game of tennis in Central Park last year, a friend told me that his grandpa dislocated his shoulder playing tennis… by falling over the net in celebrating a win. I imagined this guy-friend will someday be like his grandpa. Maybe he and I would find ourselves on a tennis court again at 85 years old, and maybe I’d even let him win. But we’d celebrate together.

For more, check out Kristy in conversation on BTR Sports, every Sunday on BreakThru Radio.