On Broken Bones, Utter Stupidity, Selfishness and the Game of Football
On Sunday, October 6, Packers Linebacker Clay Matthews suffered a fractured thumb in the game against the Detroit Lions. What happened over the next two days not only tested my low threshold for stupidity, but I came to realize that the reaction to his injury is actually a reflection of society in general.
We human beings can be some of the most self-centered, egotistical and selfish assholes ever with a very distorted and very wrong view of what it means to be a man.
A curious thing happened on the Internet on Monday, the 7th. All of a sudden Facebook and Twitter saw a large number of newly minted doctors making comments on Clay Matthews’ thumb. And when I say “newly minted” I’m being sarcastic. Apparently, all you need to get an MD today is an internet connection and the ability to talk out of your ass on subjects you know nothing about.
If that’s the case, then maybe I should re-consider this writing career and appoint myself a medical expert and go out and diagnose people I’ve never met and injuries I have not seen and declare whether or not someone is fit to work or play.
“Tape it up and be a man!” some of them shouted.
“Brett Favre played with a broken thumb. Clay Matthews is a pussy.”
“Man up, Clay.”
Spoken like a person who has never broken a bone in their lives. Because if they’d had, they would not be saying these things.
You can’t compare fractures. It’s comparing apples and oranges. Each fracture has to be treated according to the type of fracture and severity of the fracture.
I’ve had both types of fractures: a hairline fracture on the second toe in from my pinky toe on my right foot. My foot and an unplanned and violent meeting with the kitchen table leg. The swelling was so bad, I couldn’t put on my shoe. I went to the walk-in clinic, had it looked at and x-rayed and told I’d fractured it. I was shown how to buddy tape this toe to the next toe for stability, given a walking boot and a prescription for hydrocodone and was on my way. I used both crutches and a cane to help me get around until I could bear my weight on that right foot. I missed two days of work because of the side effects of the hydrocodone. My employer would not have looked too kindly on me for suddenly falling asleep in my cube and not realize it until I woke up to find a line of drool running out of my mouth and down my chin. By Monday, I was able to get along with Advil for the pain. Since I had a sitting down job, my broken toe didn’t affect my ability to do my work, so I was able to go back to work without much incident.
I’ve also had a compound fracture in my left arm that required surgery to reconstruct the breaks, which were both above and below my elbow. I’d slipped on the ice and I landed just right; the bones in my forearm jammed into the bone in my upper arm much like when a sledge hammer hits a chisel while splitting a piece of wood. I spent three hours in surgery while they reconstructed my elbow with plates, wires and screws.
I was not working at the time, but if I were, I would have been placed on 8 weeks of medical leave and then had restrictions when I returned to work. Towards the end of that 8 weeks, I was looking for work, as we were moving to Sioux Falls and I was out there because I could not do much in the way of packing, but even then, I had to have clearance from the doctor in regards to when I could start a new job and what I could do.
Two broken bones; two different fractures.
There is no comparison between my broken toe and my broken arm. It’s apples and oranges.
It’s not fair to compare Clay Matthews’ broken thumb to Brett Favre’s broken thumb, either. First of all, they don’t play the same position and both of them use their hands differently when playing their position.
And some of these self-appointed orthopedists also conveniently forget that when Brett Favre played with a broken thumb, he threw like crap.
Then later on Monday, I started to hear how in the old days men were tougher and they sucked it up and they went out and played.
Well, first of all, it’s not the old days. It’s 2013. The NFL has gotten itself into a bit of a pickle regarding head trauma and repeated concussions that players suffered and the consequences of that after football. I’m sure they’d rather not be the defendant in any more class action lawsuits related to player injuries.
Sucking it up also tests the Law of Karma. If you don’t deal with it now, it’s going to come back to you and bite you in the butt. When you keep ignoring it, it’s still going to come back every so often and when it bites you in the butt, it’s going to be a little harder each time until you wake up, find some sense, and deal with it.
I was taught to “suck it up” when I was a kid. I ended up having a nervous breakdown as a result of being taught that it was better to “suck it up”. No, it’s not better to suck it up. I have the therapy bills to prove it.
Then there is my father, who at 71 is probably either best or worst example of what happens when you suck it up your whole life. My father, I can say with certainty, has undiagnosed mental illness. I’ve seen symptoms of depression and ADHD. He could not control his emotions properly when I was a kid, and when he exploded, I was usually on the receiving end of it. Bottling up emotions is not the proper way to cope. Allowing yourself to bottle things up until you can no longer contain it is not healthy and it’s also, in some ways, a form of bullying. All of this is the result of “sucking it up”.
Now, in his old age, he has health problems up the ying yang. Back problems, gout, Type 2 Diabetes, A-fib and now he has to have surgery on both of his feet. There are studies that show that your state of mind and your mental health both have a very large impact on your physical health. People with untreated mental illness are more likely to develop physical ailments such as diabetes and heart disease. My father has a laundry list of medical issues and I believe most of it is because he is a miserable person. We’re not born miserable, but we can allow life or other people to make us miserable.
Only cowards “suck it up”. Sucking it up is neither a measure of toughness or masculinity. It’s a measure of how much of a jackass you are. It’s a measure of denial. It’s a measure of how many issues you have.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever experienced childbirth and back labor without an epidural.
If you raised your hand, congratulations. You’re one tough mother. The pain of back labor is indescribable. There is no other type of pain to relate it to. Childbirth is the most painful thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. Childbirth is so painful, the mind dissociates so you forget what the pain feels like. If you remembered exactly what that pain feels like, you would demand a tubal ligation or you’d never let your partner touch you again until after menopause.
As for the rest of you? You can go back under the bridge you crawled out from under.
It takes courage to admit that something is wrong and that you need help. It’s the same for a pain in your side or a lump you feel somewhere on your body as it is when you realize that yes, you are a drug addict and you need help. Admitting that there is something wrong takes courage, because you are opening yourself up to poking at wounds that may not have healed completely. It takes courage because that lump might be nothing or it might be a tumor, and if it’s the latter, suddenly you’re faced with your own mortality.
Sucking it up is pretending you have control over things you really don’t or can’t control and when we spend time trying to control things we have no control over or pretending something serious doesn’t exist, we’re not brave and we’re not tough. We’re asking for trouble. It’s also really stupid.
I would say that the “real man” here is Clay Matthews.
Clay Matthews has what is called a Bennett Fracture. It is a fracture in the lower part of the thumb, near the base and treatment requires placement of pins to stabilize the bone and set it so it heals properly. If a Bennett fracture does not heal properly, the person then runs the risk of developing arthritis, losing the range of motion and the function of that thumb and probably enduring more surgeries to fix the problem.
You can’t put a club cast on a Bennett Fracture and send them back out to play. I do know from my own personal experience that when pins, screws or other hardware are employed, you’re not moving that part of your body for at least two weeks, maybe more. When that cast comes off, you can’t move it. You have to learn how to move it again and even after that it takes time to gain back the range of motion.
I don’t know how long it takes for a Bennett Fracture to heal enough where Clay could come back, with the proper protective gear, of course, but I do know that when hardware has to be used to set a broken bone, the area is immobilized and then you have to work to get your range of motion back. I only spent 2 weeks in a cast, but I spent three more in a sling after the sutures were taken out and it took me months before I had even 99% of my range of motion back.
I was also very lucky in that I was able to move the arm on my own and I didn’t have to go to physical therapy. Usually, a person will have to go to PT to learn how to move that joint again and to regain the strength lost while that part of the body sat in a cast.
I did get my entire range of motion back when I had to have a second surgery to remove the screw from my elbow. The screw was beginning to work its way out of the bone and not only did it hurt to bend my arm at the elbow, it also hurt to wear a jacket because the tightness of the sleeve pushed on that screw and it hurt a lot. For awhile, I thought I had bursitis in that elbow.
From what I’ve read up on Bennett Fractures, I doubt that a doctor would have allowed Matthews to go out and play in the “old days”. If he were to play in spite of doctor’s orders, it’s because the league overruled the doctor or brought their own doctor in to clear him to play.
The team and the league won’t risk it now because they would be subject to litigation. The NFL settled the concussion suit. I don’t think they want to risk damaging their brand for having players losing the use of a hand all because it was more important for that guy to be on the field than it was to allow him the time to heal.
So forgive me if I get very testy and cranky with people who are clearly diagnosing something they are not qualified to diagnose and without seeing it or compare today’s players with those of forty years ago.
Apples and oranges.
These player’s careers only last a few years. Why should they suffer medically or lose proper use of a hand when they enter their after-football years? It’s not like they were in combat and got injured in the line of duty.
The thing is, some people view the sport of football as they view combat. Their favorite team is one army; the opponent is the enemy. It’s destroy or be destroyed.
Sorry. War is real. Football is a game that people watch for their own entertainment.
Apples and oranges.
However, the military has a long tradition of “sucking it up” and because of that, we have veterans with PTSD who commit suicide or have trouble living normal lives and we do a horrible job of taking care of these people, even though I feel we have a moral obligation to do so for our veterans.
Maybe it’s just me, but I would rather have Clay Matthews take the time he needs to have his hand heal properly so he can still use it in ten years.
Think about everything you do with your hands, even the things you take for granted. Trust me, when you lose the use of a hand, arm, leg or other body part that you use on a daily basis, it’s then you can truly appreciate how much you actually use those parts and how much you’ve taken them for granted.
Anyone who thinks Clay Matthews should “suck it up” or “tape it up” or “man up”, to put it bluntly, is a selfish prick. Why? Because your desire to be entertained on Sunday afternoon is a higher priority than someone recovering from a serious injury and having full use of their hand.
If you value a sport more than you value a person having a good quality of life after he hangs up the cleats, you are a sad, cold and selfish person. I would pity you, but I don’t feel you deserve my pity.
We value things more than other people. We value what we personally want more than other people’s well-being. I live in a country, sad to say, where there are people who would take food out of the mouths of little kids because their parents can’t get by on minimum wage because they believe people are lazy instead of offering someone a hand-up to help them get back on their feet.
My main problem with conservatism is actually not ideology (although the ideology at the extreme ends is inhuman and unconscionable). My main beef with conservatism is that it is extremely short-sighted. They don’t look beyond what is right in front of them; much less consider the long-term results of their actions. Conservatives want to cut spending, but they don’t look at the whole picture because some (not all) of what they want to cut should not be cut because it’s not an expense, it’s an investment that will reap returns in the future. But they choose to remain short-sighted and only look at what’s in front of them.
I see this in some businesses. I used to work for a place like that. They are reactive, not proactive. That’s like putting a band-aid on someone’s severed jugular vein to try and stop the bleeding. All you do is you keep changing band-aids when they become saturated with blood. It doesn’t stop the bleeding at all. If you keep swapping out band-aids and don’t try to stop the bleeding, eventually that person is going to bleed to death.
We’re a bunch of short-sighted dickheads.
We should be ashamed of ourselves.
Except that we aren’t ashamed. We’ve lost the capacity to feel shame. Shame seems to have gone out the window with good manners, empathy and common sense.
When all is said and done, when it’s the end of the day, what matters most is that Clay Matthews or any football player who gets injured not only receives proper medical attention, but they are given the time they need to heal properly. And if this bothers you because you will lose fantasy football points or all you care about is winning, you, my friend, are part of the problem.
I love football. I’m addicted to it. Sundays are spent watching all the games. I follow players on Twitter. March Madness is the methadone I take to ease the withdrawal symptoms. But even so, I do know that football is just a game and the world won’t suddenly stop rotating on its axis because someone got injured and can’t play.
Yes, this could hurt the Packers, but that remains to be seen. However, the organization has no control over how quickly or how long Clay Matthews takes to heal. All they can do is play the hand they are dealt with. Nothing more. Nothing less.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned through my treatment for anxiety and depression is that it takes energy to be angry over or worry about something that is beyond your control. It’s better to take that energy and direct it towards something positive that you can control.
Like your reaction when your favorite player suffers a serious injury. You can choose to fret, worry, jump to conclusions, talk out of your ass or you can choose to wait for information, let the worry go and don’t say anything unless you have some idea of what you are talking about.
The saying is true: It’s better to keep your mouth shut and let people think your a fool than to open your mouth and erase all doubt.
In the meantime, I wish Clay Matthews a speedy recovery and if there is one other thing I would like him to know it’s that I will probably have sympathy aches from time to time because that is something that seems to happen whenever I hear about someone breaking a bone. I can’t help but think of that very moment my feet went out from under me and my left arm hit the ice
And welcome to the “You, Too, Can Measure Barometric Pressure With Your Old Injuries Club.