Injured finger

So much for staying healthy and uninjured! Last week I slipped while using a kitchen knife and sliced open the side of my finger. The long and the short of it is that I went a third of the way though a tendon and my left index finger is going to be splinted for six weeks. (Update: When I went back to get stitches out and talked to the nurse and physio they said that when the surgeon said I cut a third of it he meant the tendon splits in to three bits around the knuckle and I cut the bit on one side completely through. Also, they said four weeks in a splint not six.) The general guidelines say no sport for 10 weeks. It doesn’t look great for DW given that it is in just over 12 weeks, but I’m not going to rule it out yet. I didn’t go all the way through and it’s an extensor tendon so it’s not actively used to hold a paddle. Plus I’m generally fit and healthy so recovery times should be on the lower end of the estimates, hopefully.

Splinted index finger

A splinted finger makes paddling tricky!

I cut right in line with the first knuckle (PIPJ). It was fairly deep. I was just going to steri-strip it together, but thought maybe some stitches would stop me ripping it open paddling so I went off to A&E not expecting to be there too long. They took one look at it and said “there’s a tendon there, go down to the hand unit and they’ll squeeze you in to have a look”. The hand guys had a look and said “probably got the tendon, can’t tell until we get it into theatres though”. So, I was off to a ward to wait and see if I could get on the end of the list. By 16:30 (having come in at 09:00 ish) I was in. They did it all under local anaesthetic, much nicer than general! Apparently the knife opened up the edge of the joint… lovely.. but didn’t damage it. So the only damage is the tendon. I was impressed being fixed up and sent home the same day I went in.

Cut away picture of the back of a hand, Grey's AmatomyThe tendon comes down the back of the finger and splits to go either side of the knuckle, so the half on the other side of the finger is fine. That must bode well for recovering full function. Also, it’s the extensor not the flexor, which I think tends to be more likely to recover well. I detached a flexor tendon on the same hand years ago playing rugby and it is near perfect now. They do take a long time to heal though.

If I do still do DW then it will be a last minute entry. Then I’ll organise all the logistics in a rush in the two weeks before the race. I’ll have minimal support crew without many feeds etc because we won’t have had time to practice, I’m not going to spend loads of time planning when I don’t know if I can race or not. I’ve got old plans from before with maps and directions so we’ll just use them and improvise a bit. I’d rather leave the mental energy for focusing on recovery, physio, and training however I can.

It was interesting talking to paddlers vs non paddlers. The non paddlers said “I assume you won’t race then?” while the paddlers said things like “if you stay fit and get lots of other training in, you might be okay”. If I can’t race I’ll just have to pick new targets later in the year. DW will still be there next year. It’s still given me a good push to get back into training so the effort will be far from wasted. Enjoying the journey is the point anyway, so there’s no point getting put off by a detour. I’ll just have to switch focus from racing to improving recovery for a few weeks, whether that’s doing physio, eating well, or something else.

Going forwards training is going to be very different for a while. I can still use my right arm so I’ll do single sided machine exercises (it won’t be long enough to develop imbalances and training one side helps the rested side stay strong too). After a couple of weeks I’ll do things like pec deck or lat pullover machine that don’t need you to hold anything with your hands. And obviously I can do leg press and other leg machines. “Cardio” will have to be bikes at the gym, then running once it’s healed enough that swinging it around doesn’t make it bleed and risk damaging the wound. There’s lots of core stuff that doesn’t need your hands too. I should be able to maintain quite a lot of strength and fitness, just not paddling fitness.

I’ll continue the blog up until DW (or the entry deadline if I don’t end up racing), but whether it will really be a “DW training” blog or a “rehab and training around a hand injury” remains to be see.

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