Despite extensive exercise, a fall off a ladder while picking apples sets Moyle back to recovery mode

Cllay Moyle and Caleb Moyle for column




By Clay Moyle

Special to The Sports Paper

Sometimes I feel as though I’m darn near in a constant state of rehab from one injury or another, or at least it feels that way over the past 10 years. I try to remain very active and routinely work out five to six days a week between the visits to the gym to lift weights and get in some cardio exercise in addition to playing full court basketball with the guys once or twice a week.

More often than not, it’s the latter activity, playing basketball in my 50s that results in an injury of some kind that I need to rehab from before I can get back out there on the court playing again. And I guess that’s to be expected.

Whenever I get hurt playing basketball these days I am reminded of a book I read many years ago that was written by former NBA player Bill Bradley and his comment that the human body wasn’t meant to play full court basketball after the age of 40.

Ever since I turned 48, I’ve made so many comebacks that I’ve lost track. There were the two hip replacements, torn meniscuses in both knees, and of course a “minor” back surgery to address a bulging disc and bone spur.

Those were bad enough, but on top of those I’ve also had to deal with and recover from the more typical lesser injuries such as a partially torn rotator cuff, sprained ankles, a fractured rib, jammed thumb, pulled hamstrings and calf muscles. I’m sure I’m leaving something else out, but as you can see it’s been one thing after another. I can hardly wait to see what the next 10 years bring.

As the month of August was coming to a close, I made a decision to ramp up my exercise program and I’d been doubling up on the volume of workouts some days in addition to extending their length.

I’d also resumed some work on the heavy bag in my attic and using a jump rope, so I felt as though I was really rounding into pretty good shape. In fact, on Saturday September 5th I’d played in a bunch of full court basketball games with a number of guys in their 20s. I’d been really pleased with how well I’d played.

On the morning of September 7 (Labor Day) I had another tough workout at the local gym and was taking my son down to my sister’s home at noon. She has a few apple trees on her property and invited him over to help make applesauce. I was feeling pretty tired at the time so all I was going to do was drop him off and head over to my folks house next door and collapse on a couch for a couple hours while awaiting an afternoon barbeque dinner.

But, as we pulled up to the home of my sister I could see that the operation was in full scale mode and I noticed my brother-in-law was picking apples for the effort. So, I felt like I should pitch in and help pick some apples myself.

It seemed like a perfectly harmless act, all I was going to do was climb up a step ladder no more than 7-8 feet off the ground and fill up a couple of buckets of apples before finding my way to the couch at my folks’ house.

But, shortly after starting work on my second bucket I remember reaching out for an apple and losing my balance. The only thing I recall after that is quickly grabbing a hold of a branch to break my fall and it immediately snapping. I don’t remember a thing after that. I must have landed very poorly because I’m told I was unconscious for about seven minutes while my son and sister tried to revive me and called 911.

They eventually revived me but I don’t remember a thing about that or being loaded and strapped onto a board for the trip to Tacoma General Hospital and a CAT scan.

The next thing I have any memory of is being in room at the hospital surrounded by my wife, daughter and sister and learning that I’d fallen, suffered a grade three concussion and fractured three ribs. My wife tells me that what I was most upset about was learning that my sister had cut my nice Seattle Sonics sweatshirt off me before I’d been hooked up with an IV and strapped to a board for a ride in the aid car, and the likely expense of that trip and subsequent hospital work.

I spent the night in the hospital for observation and remember feeling as though someone had beaten me with a baseball bat. I also had some blurred vision, but after a visit with the doctor I was cleared to go home the following morning.

Speaking of that doctor, before leaving I asked her if I would be able to return to the basketball court in two months.

“No,” she replied, “that’s what you asked me yesterday. I told you six months.”

I had a little bit of nausea that morning, but that disappeared quickly and I was told that I was fortunate that was the case and that I also wasn’t experiencing any headaches or dizziness. But, I was suffering from some double vision and blurriness. If I wore a patch over one eye or closed one eye I was fine, but if I opened both eyes I was seeing double unless I held my head in a specific position.

So a couple of days later, we made an appointment to see my eye doctor and after a series of tests he told me I was suffering from something called fourth cranial nerve palsy. Apparently, this condition causes weakness or paralysis to the superior oblique muscle that often cause vertical or near vertical double vision as the weakened muscles prevent the eyes from moving in the same direction together.

So, while the eyes will work fine independently of one another, the fact is that they aren’t working in conjunction with one another as well as they should.

The fourth cranial nerve is the thinnest and longest of the cranial nerves and is vulnerable to traumatic head injury. To compensate for the double-vision resulting from weakness to the superior oblique, patients will tilt their head down and to the side opposite the affected muscle, which explained why holding my head in a specific position helped.

Now that doctor went onto tell me that he thought there was an 80 percent chance the problem would resolve itself within the next 3-6 months, possibly sooner, but that if it didn’t it might be a permanent problem that would have to be addressed with an eye patch or prism lens of some kind. All he said I could do in the meantime was get a lot of rest, a little exercise, and try to be as healthy as possible.

The idea that there was a chance any of the problems I was experiencing would continue depressed the heck out of me and I left that appointment in poor spirits.

But, two other doctors had recommended we also see a neuro-optometrist in Federal Way named Dr. Curtis Baxstrom, who specialized in helping individuals who’d suffered a concussion so we placed a call.

Luckily, there was a cancellation and we were able to get in and see him this past Monday. He put me through a battery of tests, had me do a couple of hand-eye coordination type rehab exercises involving the use of a small bean bag, and then repeated a couple of those tests.

Long story short, he said that the improvement I showed in the test results after doing the rehab exercises led him to believe that my vision issues could be improved upon very quickly if I would perform those exercises on a daily basis.  He said to do them at least two to three times per day but also told me I could do them hourly if desired, so of course I’m doing the latter.

He also suggested that it would be helpful to get out and walk around while moving my head from side to side to try and get my eyes working better together as quickly as possible.

Along the same lines, while it was more comfortable to use an eye patch over one eye he recommended I discontinue its use to force the eyes to try and work together.

So I left his office in much better spirits and feeling as though there was now a plan for recovery.  I’ve also begun to see an acupuncturist in order to promote blood flow and healing to the area.

Since then, I’ve done some additional research concerning nerve palsies and viewed one video that said a damaged nerve will often regenerate itself over the course of 3-6 months, but may not reconnect exactly as it had before.

So, I’m presently seeking a little more information from the neuro-optometrist as to why he was so optimistic I could experience a much quicker recovery and hoping that something in the testing he did convinced him that the damage I suffered wasn’t very extensive.

It’s always something. Sometimes I feel as though I’ve been taking a human anatomy class over the past 10 years.

If nothing else, this latest experience has left me with a greater appreciation for concussions and ladder safety. In fact, I might not ever get on another ladder without wearing a helmet of some kind.