Wear and Tear

By Jay Drescher

It is no secret that ultimate is a physically demanding sport, but having played two straight seasons of AUDL and USA Ultimate Club, I can safely say it is a lot of stress on your body. Turf is a faster surface to play on, and as a result it puts more stress on your muscles. As a D line player for both teams, I am expending more energy than ever before; especially with 13.333 more yards of break side to cover on the AUDL fields. Between the practices and games each week for both teams, I am pushing my lower body to the point of exhaustion regularly. Usually my walks from the locker room/fields to the bus/car are made by a content zombieified version of myself. On Monday mornings after tournaments or AUDL road weekends, my body lets me know all of the issues it has with with my actions over the weekend.

Most of my body issues can be fixed with a trip to the local chiropractor. The lingering pain and tight muscles require additional work. When that is the case, I go see a ROLFER or Structural Integrationist to have a painful massage that is the key to physical transcendence. Every time I get out of an appointment I feel 3 inches taller and in perfect symmetry. The pain I feel on the table when someone is running an elbow along my rib cage is well worth the euphoria after.

My mom is a massage therapist, and I have been lucky during my childhood to have immediate care for the punishment I put on my body during sports. I attribute my understanding of what my body needs, and in turn my defensive tenacity, to the professional therapy and education from my mom. She has constantly harassed me (in that mother loving kind of way) to get my injuries immediately taken care of and treat them as a job to recovery. I have been able to recover from injuries faster and prevent them by keeping my body balanced due to her.

I was badly injured last season during an AUDL game as the player I was defending jumped early for a disc in the endzone.  Unfortunately he both caught the disc for a ridiculous goal, came down on top of me and, in the process, caused me to strain the ligaments that connect my hamstring to my knee. I thought I could walk that off and continued to play in the second half. That was a bad decision, and on an under cut I heard a pop and expected the worst. Luckily it was nothing serious, but it did increase my recovery time from a week, to a month or so. As I recovered for those ~4-5 weeks, I started to understand a few things:

  1. Respect your injury or you will re-injure it causing more frustration and desire to drink more beer.
  2. The combination of getting older and sitting at a desk job all day demands more gym work to maintain my strength and fitness.

As I prepare for the World Championships in Italy and a Club Championship title defense with my Drag’n Thrust teammates, I am as aware as ever of the pushing and pulling the body does on itself. I am acutely aware of how intertwined everything is, as the muscles in your upper back may be contributing to your hurting hip flexor, or tightness in your calves may be causing your plantar fasciitis pain on the bottom of your foot. In my opinion, a good Structural Integrationist will be able to see/feel your injury and find all of the tributaries that create the overall symptom. Once all of those are fixed you will be very happy! If you don’t have a Structural Integrationist close by, a foam roller (or PVC pipe for the bold) should be your new best friend.

Competing on the field with your teammates in practice and tournaments is what ultimate is all about, and the aches and pains of our demanding sport are a reality everyone deals with. Understanding the drivers for those aches and pains, and how to appropriately care and rehab the body, is critical to staying on the field and experiencing the beauty our sport has to offer.

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