Old athletic injuries can be hard to heal

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I wrote last week about former National Football League players continuing to suffer from football-related injuries as they move into old age.

The real questions were about health insurance and retirement benefits that seem to have been denied to them by the league and their union.

It seems unfortunate that, without any direct knowledge, these guys who were the basis for the NFL becoming the money tree that it now is are being shuttled to the bottom of the long line.

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One would think that they could be brought under the same umbrella as today’s players.

No one, of course, would expect their retirement pay to approach that of today’s players, but their health insurance should definitely cover those old injuries.

Many of those old injuries don’t manifest themselves until many years later.

Speaking of athletic injuries, an old friend asked me if I knew the origin of the charley horse.

I was pretty sure that, at least into the 1950s, a charley horse was s deep bruise to the thigh.

Sure enough, a search on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia revealed that charley horse is a North American term for a painful contusion (bruise) of the quadriceps muscle of the anterior thigh that commonly results in a muscular hematoma and several weeks of pain and disability.

Wikipedia adds that in the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth countries the injury is known as ‘dead leg.’ In Australia it is known as a ‘corked thigh’ or ‘corkie.’

Charley horse as a term is often applied to the foot or leg cramp.

Among the usual causes for these types of cramps are dehydration, medication, such diseases as ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and neuropathy. They are also a common result of pregnancy.

The normal treatment for a charley horse bruise is icing.

Recently it has been discovered that keeping the knee of the affected leg bent for 24 hours after the icing can help keep the affected muscle from going into spasm, therefore speeding up the recovery time of the injury.

There are as many treatments for foot and leg cramps as there are coaches and trainers.

The best treatment I have found is to take a teaspoon of yellow mustard orally.

I have never heard a reason for the success of that cure, but it works for me. Outside of athletics, kids used to give each other charley horses by a punch in the thigh.

The charley horse subject brought back memories of some other common sports injuries from an earlier time.

Today’s ACL and LCL injuries to joint ligaments used to fall under the general category of sprains.

It was not until modern medicine developed arthroscopic surgery and doctors were able to see inside those joints that actual damage could be correctly assessed.

It is amazing what repairs can be made to the human body through such small openings.

My knee injury received while playing football at Keesler Air Force Base must have been only a sprain.

My early recovery was delayed by the fact that the trainers first applied heat to the area.

All that did was make the joint swell to twice normal size. Later, the team had only six knee braces to go around among 15 knee injuries.

What should have been a two week recovery period stretched out to six weeks.

I guess I am lucky to have no lasting problem with that knee.

And, That’s Official.

Al Graning can be reached by e-mail at AlanWard39157@aol.com.