February 21, 2018

Shoulder Shenanigans and Other Maladies
Yesterday I finally went to see an orthopedic doctor about my shoulder. As I've blogged, I began having shoulder problems in October or November, but it was just a repeat of past problems. At the U.S. Open in December I tore it badly while moving wide to the forehand for a big smash, and had to default out immediately. Because I'd injured it before, I thought I knew how to rehab it, and so took a month off from coaching and did various exercises with these giant resistance rubber bands.

I started coaching again in mid-January, but the shoulder was only (in my estimation) 80% healed. I've been careful not to aggravate it by extending my arm out or reaching upwards too much, but occasionally a student would put a ball wide or short to my forehand and I'd mistakenly reach out for it - ow! Anyway, the shoulder seemed to get worse, so I finally saw the doctor yesterday. (How bad is it? When I comb my hair I have to use my left arm to hold up my right arm.) 

They did x-rays, and he ran some tests, and I have an MRI on Friday morning. (I might not be able to blog that morning.) So the final diagnosis will have to wait until then - it could be a rotator cuff injury. But he said I have a "shoulder impingement," which means "tendons of the rotator cuff muscles become irritated and inflamed as they pass through the subacromial space, the passage beneath the acromion. This can result in pain, weakness and loss of movement at the shoulder." He was amazed at my lack of shoulder mobility. I haven't been able to touch my back with my right arm for many months, and it's been years since I could do so without first doing a lot of warm-up and/or stretching. I also can't raise my right arm straight up in the air. The left arm is perfectly normal, so the contrast is startling.

They gave me a cortisone shot in the back of the shoulder, which is supposed to reduce the swelling and make it easier to coach for now. However, this morning my shoulder seems worse, if anything - I can barely lift it. I normally have four hours of coaching on Wednesday nights (5:30-9:30), but due to a series of random events, tonight I only have the first hour. (I have a separate meeting with club officers on various issues at 6:30PM, but that's separate.) There's a chance I might have to cancel or get a substitute - I'll see how the shoulder is this afternoon. (Update - it's feeling a bit better, so I should make the 5:30 PM session.) 

Tomorrow (Thursday) I see the physical therapist. I already have a series of exercises assigned by the orthopedic doctor I saw yesterday, but we'll see what more they have in store for me.

Now before anyone gets off on a "Larry's not taking care of himself" thing, while there's some truth to that - I did avoid seeing a doctor at first - I was born with a somewhat rare condition that, as far as I know, has no name. I have naturally tight, stiff, and dense muscles. How dense? I'm incapable of floating in water. (I can float in salt water, which is much denser and so more buoyant.) When I was in the Boy Scouts I had to get a doctor's note explaining that I was incapable of floating or they wouldn't give me the swimming merit badge, which requires one to float on their back for 30 seconds, which I cannot do. At hotels at tournaments I sometimes show off by walking on the bottom of pools or doing pushups. Yes, I really can walk across a pool on the bottom. (Maybe I'll show off and do this at the Nationals in July, if they have a pool. I'll charge $5 a person. Get your tickets now!) I used to go to carnivals where they had one of those people who would try to guess your weight, and they'd always underestimate me by 10-15 pounds.

So my muscles are very stiff. All the stretching in the world won't change that, though they of course help. This is one reason I tend to have stiff, somewhat ragged strokes, not something I want my students to copy.

These stiff muscles lead to other muscle problems, either directly or indirectly - stiff muscles also lead to tendon problems. I've had tendonitis in my right arm for years, but an armband solves that problem. I've also had upper right back problems, because my right side is so much stronger than the left side that it pulls the spine out of alignment, but that problem is solved by a specific stretch I do regularly that loosens the upper right muscles of the back. I've also had problems with my right knee, probably from years of coaching on cement before we went to all rubberized flooring at MDTTC about 15 years ago. I hurt it last July, and from then until December I couldn't walk up stairs normally, having to go one step at a time, left leg, then right, supporting as much weight as possible on the railing. But the knee has been fine since December. And a month ago I tore up my right heel in a freakish accident, when the screen door on the front door closed on the back of my foot, tearing a very deep wound that even now hasn't completely healed - I had to wear protective bandages until just a few days ago.

Meanwhile, my left side is in perfect health! (Well, it's stiff as well, but it hasn't gone through 42 years of table tennis strokes and injuries.) But I sometimes think my entire right side is held together by tape. If this were politics, I'd say "the right" is being punished! :)

And while we're on the topic of health, I hit an all-time high of 200 pounds even around Christmas. I've been dieting since, and this morning hit 184. I plan to get to 175.

2018 ITTF Team World Cup
The 2018 World Team Cup starts tomorrow, Feb. 22-25, in London. Here's the news page. Here's a video interview (1:33) of Ma Long and Ding Ning, in Chinese but with English subtitles.

Mighty Challenge Lies in Wait for Team USA in London
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "The ITTF World Team Cup is back and USA will feature in both the Men's and Women's events as the 2018 event hits London, England. Due to kick off February 22nd, the three day competition will host the world's top table tennis teams on world ranking and continental qualification."

Hopes Program
The ITTF Hopes program is for the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the U.S. and the world. Here is information on the program, including upcoming USATT camps and regional qualifiers.

Collegiate Table Tennis

2018 HITTA Spring Festival TT Tournament Report
Here's the article on this Houston event, by Manny Velazquez.

Silver Medallist One Year Ago, Adriana Diaz in Search of Gold
Here's the ITTF article on the Puerto Rican star and the upcoming Swedish Junior and Cadet Open.

China's Zhang Xie-Lin "Magic Penhold"
Here's the video (2:48) of this penhold chopper from the 1960s, against Li Furong (1961, 63, 65 World Men's Singles Finalist). Video is from 1984, but just went online. "The Magic Chopper" devastated European players in the 60's with his tricky sidespin chops.

Western Union Table Tennis Ad
Here's the commercial (30 sec).

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