February 26, 2021
Note: Blog post subject matter is discussed in more detail on the Athalonz Podcast.
As I mentioned in a few previous blogs, I injured my back when I was seventeen and kept reinjuring it to the point that it ended my dream of becoming a professional baseball player. Even when not playing baseball, my back would “go out”. I could be doing just about anything and bam, my back would go out and I’d be in excruciating pain, one or both of my legs would almost stop working, and I couldn’t move.
When I was in my early twenties, I was folding laundry in our apartment. I reached in the laundry basket to grab a towel and my back went out. My wife wasn’t home and I laid on the floor for hours until the spasms let up enough so I could move. After that, I decided to see an orthopedic surgeon. By the way, this did not get me out of doing laundry. Almost forty years later and I still do laundry.
The orthopedic surgeon found that I had three herniated disks in my lower back. He said I would eventually need surgery and recommended that I didn’t play any sports that would put stress on my lower back. As for physical activities, his only recommendations were swimming and bicycling. His diagnosis and recommendations were very depressing.
I could not swim and, no offence to bicyclists, but I viewed bicycling as a means of transportation; not a sport. Sports for me were baseball, football, basketball, tennis, golf and so on. I also knew that I did not want to have back surgery. My mother-in-law had back surgery a few years earlier and she was no better and may be even slightly worse than she was before the surgery.
Reluctantly, I joined the YMCA and started swimming. It was more like drowning avoidance than swimming. I kicked and paddled my arms, but barely moved. I did create a lot of splashing, which would get in my mouth every few strokes; choking me. It was embarrassing. It was also winter in northern Illinois, so riding my bike was out of the question.
After a few months, I did get a little better at swimming, but it was still awful. One night, I was watching a special on ESPN regarding a body builder. I don’t recall his name, but I do remember his story. He was an up-and-coming body builder when he was involved in a car accident and broke his back. The doctors told him that he’d be lucky to walk and it would be impossible for him to every compete again.
Needless to say, the body builder didn’t like the doctors’ prognosis and vowed that he would compete again. It took him almost two years, but he make it back to competition. That got me thinking. I was not a swimmer nor a bicyclist, I was a baseball player that also liked to play softball, basketball, golf, and tennis.
I decided if I was eventually going to need surgery, I was going to do what I liked until then. Following the body builder’s lead, I started lifting weights, with emphasis on core strength. The stronger I got, the less back issues I had. I could play baseball again and I could play other sports with little to no back pain.
It got to point where I didn’t even think about my back. Every few years though, it would remind me that I do have a serious issue. It didn’t seem to matter what I was doing, it would just go out. Most of the time, I would go to the ER to get a muscle relaxer, I’d then get some physical therapy, and, within a few weeks, I would be back to doing what I wanted.
I am now 59 years old. So, I have been living with my back issues for 42 years and still have not had surgery. I still lift weights, I still play golf, I still play some tennis, and now I also run half marathons and mountain bike (easy stuff, not the crazy technical stuff). I did hang up my baseball spikes a couple of years ago. It was too much work to play at the level I wanted to play at.
Please note that I am not advocating ignoring medical advice. I am merely sharing my story and, for me, the medical advice was factor, but not gospel, on how I was going to live my life.
I am the CEO and Founder of Athalonz, LLC., I am a founding partner of the patent boutique law firm of Garlick & Markison, I am a survivor of child abuse, and I am an inventor on over 300 patents.
Athalonz is a technology company based in Mesa, AZ. It develops and sells athletic footwear, which incorporates its patented technology that leverages the laws of physics to improve athletic performance. Website: athalonz.com
Garlick & Markison is a patent law boutique firm that assists clients in building a patent business within their business using proprietary tools and techniques. Website: texaspatents.com
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