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Is That my Skeleton?

David Yon, March 8, 2017

The visit did not start so well.  Of course, a drive from Tallahassee to Gainesville that begins at 6:15 a.m., 15 minutes late, tends to put a person on edge to begin with.  I know the third floor of the building at 3450 Hull Road very well.  It is where I first started doing stupid human tricks to prove I most likely had Parkinson’s.  It is a place that provides outstanding care under the direction of Dr. Michael Okun.

But that was not the purpose of this visit. No, this time it was that gnarly muscle group on the back side of my right leg, together with tendons and ligaments that support the muscles, that has me looking for special help.  It appears the good times following having a torn tendon reattached and repaired by a surgeon nearly 7 years ago, have come to an end.  My running has been greatly curtailed for several months now.

So, here I am standing in front of the check-in window for the UF Health Sports Performance Center or more specifically the “Running Clinic.”  Approximately three weeks earlier I had been to visit Dr. Kevin Vincent, Director of the UF Running Clinic, in this same office with an MRI in my hand showing the new tears and bruises in my hamstring.  Apparently, the tears weren’t serious enough to warrant even a discussion of surgery (I am happy) and he sent me on my way with suggestions for rehabilitation exercises for getting well. He also asked if I had any interest in having a “gait analysis” done.  Before you know it, I had one scheduled for three weeks later. (Important note - gate analysis not covered by insurance.)

At least I thought I had an appointment scheduled.  I stood in front of the well meaning person sitting behind the glass barricade listening to me as she said “No, I do not have anything showing you have an appointment.”  “But I drove from Tallahassee this morning for an appointment,” I pleaded. She responded: “Not only are you not on Dr. Vincent’s schedule, but he is not even in town today.”  I went meekly back to my lobby seat thinking very unpleasant thoughts. Fortunately, a little digging through my email produced some critical information that confirmed my appointment and told everyone I should be on the first floor, instead of the second.

Instead of a visit with Dr. Kevin Vincent, director of the Running Clinic, I made my way down to the first floor to see Dr. Heather Vincent; yes Mr. Vinvent's wife.  She is the Director of the Human Performance Laboratory and the Director of the UF Health Sports Performance Center. She was also the person to introduce me to my skeleton and evaluate my gate based on all the data the team was about to collect.  Soon, I was in running shorts, covered with wire leads and attempting to run shirtless and steady within a small area on top of the treadmill.  It took awhile to get steady and I was immediately aware it was not my normal gate getting filmed and recorded here. 

Nevertheless, when I stepped off the treadmill and made my way to the screens, there I was pictured running from three angles and, low and behold, there was my skeleton just churning away and marking angles and the force of foot strikes.  (Could this guy do my intervals for me in the future?) The team, led by Dr. Heather Vincent, pushed on, reviewing the data.  Dr. Vincent had a wonderful way about her and she proceeded to explain, measure, time and analyze while at least three others watched and helped.

I did note a somewhat strange question which I answered the best I could when completing the paper work before the exam started.  The form just said “Race?” I am sure it is too late to get ready no matter what, but I went ahead and answered the Boston Marathon. That was my race before the hamstring injury and I appreciate their effort to get me ready.

Of course, we found no magic answers. But Dr. Vincent, supported by her colleagues, did identify some weakness in my side to side stability, maybe leading to a lack of balance (or maybe the other way around).  Viewed from straight ahead she said my stride looked “nearly perfect for what we want.”  She followed up with a lot of strengthening exercise for the future. I know that was my treadmill stride, not my trail stride, however, so I do need to concentrate more on running with the same light foot strike with my foot landing under my body, not out in front of it.   The drills I would go home with would however be designed to build strength in my hips and core to stop the side to side wavering.  For better or worse sounds a lot like what I heard before, does it Chris?  Well, regardless, it is time to go put this skeleton to work!