Monday, June 25, 2007

Metacarpal Contusion Syndrome

So I went mountain biking for the second time this year at Crop Circles, a fun little network of trails south of Seattle. It was raining hard. One of the great things about mountain biking in the Northwest is that mud doesn't stick to your tires and gum up your bike. The one problem with rain on this particular trail is that the bush branches get wet and sag out over the trail, so I was drenched within the first ten minutes of the ride. Still, riding in the slick conditions makes the trail more challenging and lets me work on one of my favorite moves -- the Root Slide Out (RSO). When you're riding up and around a tree in the rain, you know that a slanted root is going to cause your bike wheel to slide, but if you anticipate it and have faith in Newtonian physics, you can shift your weight and pedal hard as your bike seems to whip around magically.

About halfway through the ride, I lifted my front wheel over a root while riding up a hill, but the wheel got stuck between two roots, causing me to do an quick endo over the handlebars. My hands hurt afterwards, but I thought little of it and kept riding. A couple hours later, when I was in the grocery store buying all the things that Wendy didn't want me to buy, I noticed that my left hand was suddenly throbbing with pain. (I know "throbbing with pain" is hackneyed, but you can't just say "throbbing" because that's too harlequin. In fact, my hand throbbed so much that my breast was heaving.) When I tried to pick up a grocery bag, it felt like something snapped in my hand, and I got nauseous. Oh no. I've had a broken hand before, and I quickly did the math. A broken hand takes 6 weeks to heal . . . Leadville is, let's see, 7 weeks away . . . carry the 1 . . . I can still do it.

I dropped off the groceries at home and headed over to the emergency room, where they took x-rays. There were two problems with my emergency room experience: (1) they began treatment immediately, leaving me no time to watch videos on my iPod, and (2) they told me that my hand was not in fact broken. Insult to non-injury, they gave me a handout that told me how to treat my contusion, which can be summarized as "Shake it off." I left the hospital as quickly as I could, holding on to my hand tenderly, as if it had been insulted, and called Wendy.

"What did the doctor say?" she asked.

"It looks like I have Metacarpal Contusion Syndrome. The good news is that for MCS, I don't even need a cast."


  1. AnonymousJune 26, 2007

    i am relieved. and not a little amused.

  2. In the biz, I believe they call this "advance excuse preparation."

  3. AnonymousJune 26, 2007


  4. see, your problem was you threw your weight too far forward, too early. you should have anticipated the wheel getting stuck and then extricated yourself by shifting -- not haphazardly chucking -- your weight forward.

    failing that, you should have -- midflight -- brought your hands to your chest, tucked, and rolled.

    this is but a sample of the advice i have to give.

  5. Two days later, the swelling is gone and my hand is only slightly sore. This means that the next time I get a real injury, I have to stay away from hospital on principle, at least for a few days.

  6. AnonymousJune 26, 2007

    Um, did a professional health care practitioner actually look at that X-ray? 'Cause it looks like your wrist bone is broken into a whole lot of pieces.

  7. Botched - That's not my hand. I created it using Microsoft Paint.

  8. Don't be too hard on yourself. I went to the ER a few years ago meself, insisting that I'd broken my heel while chopping wood barefoot on a cement stoop. It wasn't broken, not even chipped ... but it sure hurt like hell. Anyway, glad you're feeling better in time for the ride!