Why would I sign up for something as silly as this, you might ask? Because I have had rank, ugly, nasty, debilitating, eat-painkillers-like-they-are-M&Ms kind of back pain for eons now, and we are trying to figure out why. The pain is in mostly in my lower back/Sacroiliac Joint region, so I affectionately call it Giant Pain In The Ass Syndrome for lack of a definitive diagnosis.
Anyway, being shocked repeatedly makes me a bit testy, so when the technician and the doctor commented, for the third time, how dangerous riding is, I went slightly foaming-at-the-mouth feral.
"No more dangerous than driving on the highways of New Jersey." said I. (Seriously, if you know anything about Jersey you know I'm not making this stuff up.)
My doctor's office is the orthopedic practice for an NFL team, one of the premier US Tennis tournaments, as well as several colleges and elite prep schools. They are used to seeing elite athletes. They are less used to seeing non-elite, borderline psychotic athletes. They cannot understand why I continue to pursue my riding, even through significant pain. Riding is clearly not my meal ticket and I am way too old to hope it will get me a scholarship, so they can't comprehend why I persist in what they consider irrational behavior.
"Most of your patients won't wind up in the NFL or playing in the US Open or the MLS or NHL. Do you tell them to stop playing football/tennis/soccer/hockey?" I ask. Of course they don't.
"But riding is risky. You're so high up. It's so unpredictable" say my doctor, who, by the way, has jumped out of planes and bungee jumped off bridges. Call me crazy, but I consider THAT irrational behavior and it's a hell of a lot farther to fall than off a horse, thank you very much.
The thing that gets me the most, is that in many cases, they don't understand the biomechanics of riding. They'll talk about concussion and how when they rode on the beach on their honeymoon their back was sore for days. Umm, understood, yes, there are concussive forces, but you on your honeymoon and me with years of training are too different things. (At least, I fervently hope so.) They GET the physics of soccer/football/swimming/baseball/lacrosse, but they don't get the physics of riding. By the way, one of the doctors is a big mountain biker. Hello!!!! Concussive forces, anyone? Risky, maybe?
Yes, riding is risky. So is driving. So is flying. So is football/hockey/soccer and basically life in general. Yes, the rate of traumatic injury per hour ( according to Riders4Helmets) is the same as for motocyclists. So we do the best we can to minimize the risk.