The Road to Recovery

I just had to…. In a cave near Vang Vieng, Laos. Photo by @SaraThePRobot

I remember the night in September 2007. I was battling with my crew at the Harbour Dance Centre in Vancouver. My training had been suffering for a while and I wasn’t anywhere near by best but we made it to the semi finals of a 4 on 4 b-boy battle with just the three of us. After it was all said and done, we lost the semi-final, I was struggling to walk and was left limping for the next three days.

I reached my breaking point and I couldn’t do it anymore. My hip flexors and adductors were shot, I couldn’t lift my leg, and my IT band was incredibly tight, making it rather painful to walk normal. That was it, I was done. No more dancing. I needed to find an answer to why my hip was hurting so much. For the next two years I tried everything under the sun and short of a shaman: physiotherapy, chiropractic, acupuncture, massage, yoga, rest – nothing worked – not even the extreme Singapore heat during my exchange could ease the pain on my joint. Lucky for me it only hurt to do extreme movements, but there was one problem – those extreme movements were what I lived for.

It’s depressing

Losing something you’ve been doing since you were in the 7th grade is hard – no, EXTREMELY hard – but you’ve got to move past that. Feeling sorry for yourself gets you no where and only starts to make other areas of your life suck just as much. The only thing worth doing – and its way more difficult than letting yourself be depressed – is figuring out what to do about it.

It’s a decision

For me, I can’t just let go of things that easily. I’ve heard of countless people coming off injuries way worse than mine and I know there had to be a way to get past my situation – little did I know what my situation actually was – so I did my best to stay optimistic. In order to stay close to what I loved I founded Famous Circle and began organizing and promoting b-boy events, but after a while being around the scene began to take a mental toll on me. It just wasn’t the same as it used to be – I couldn’t dance, I couldn’t get down when the funky music hit me. It just hurt. I just watched.

Finding the answer

After managing to put together a stage show for the Hip Hop 360 showcase at the Canada Dance Festival in the Summer of 2008 and returning from my University exchange overseas, I began an intense few months of Bikram’s yoga in early 2009. The pattern of failure continued, It didn’t help, but it did help surface a new issue I had (yay!). My right shoulder is a lot lower then my left. This led me to get X-rays at my cousin’s (Dr. Bartlett) BackFit practice in Victoria, BC which turned out to be a phenomenal 9 month rehab experience. (note to self: write a post on measurable results from BackFit). At the same time I also got a referral to a rehabilitation specialist in Victoria so I could ask him what the deal was with my shoulder. It turns out he wasn’t concerned at all about it, especially because I was right handed: “Don’t worry it’s pretty common.” Does that mean’s it’s good? Anyways, the guy also took a look at my hip and took special notice to the fact the internal rotation of my right hip sucked by at least 50% compared to my left. “You should get an X-ray, this isn’t normal,” – at least something wasn’t normal.

* * *

Change leads you in new directions . Giving up something you’re crazy about is stupid hard, but life goes on, and there are other things out there – sometimes not even that far out there. Enter salsa.

I’ve always loved the sound and energy of latin music, and when I’d break, I’d often be getting down to latin percussion, so it was almost a natural shift; besides, I always told myself I’d try it one day.

I started frequenting the Cuban Salsa Club at the University of Victoria and as soon as I figured out how the hell to dance with a partner and move her without feeling like an idiot I was hooked. In January 2011, I joined Sabor Asi’s performance group, danced in a few festivals, and was on to a new adventure.

Who knew salsa could be just as fun, if not more, than slamming your body on the ground with a bunch of sweaty dudes? Exchange slamming for walking and dudes for beautiful women and you have salsa. You should try it, seriously. It’s a blast, super social, and the most popular partner dance in the world, so you will share a mutual interest with all sorts of fun and interesting people where ever you go. Sometimes a change leads to new discoveries. Not so bad huh?

* * *

A few weeks later I went back into see Mr. Rehab Specialist. Turns out I needed a surgery – it all made sense. No wonder my pathological focus on improving my soft tissue didn’t do shit – it wasn’t the problem. The head of my femur was grinding away the cartilage in my hip socket, giving me a pre-arthritic hip. My condition is called Femoral Acetabular Impingement (FAI). It’s actually pretty common, but most people don’t realize they have an impinged hip unless they’re super active. It’s a condition that’s been left under-studied and not well treated until more recently. Finally, I got my referral for an arthroscopic procedure from a Dr. Gilbart at the UBC Hospital in Vancouver. Of course he was the only one in the province who could do the procedure and the wait list was supposedly three years long.

After one more year, I finally got the call to see him. Our meeting was 10 minutes. We said “Hello,” rushed a few questions and I got the word that my surgery would be in 3-5 months – that was March 2011. Seven months later my glorious surgery date arrived, November 7th 2011. After almost exactly four years, I’m now on the other side and it feels so good.

Sometimes what you want is worth the wait and worth the journey to get there. Having the faith that you’ll get there is the hard part.

Get depressed, decide, let change lead you in a new direction, never give up.

Have you ever been through a difficult recovery? What’s your story?


Hey I'd really like to touch basis with you regarding your FAI and your recovery from the surgery. For the last three years my hip has slowly gotten worse (me having no idea what was causing the pain), to the point where I rarely ever hit windmills anymore and had to learn headspins with my legs fron to back instead of side to side. I just got X-ray / MRI results from doctor and he is pretty sure it is FAI. I looked at the X-rays / MRI and it looks dead obvious that is what the problem is.


How is your hip feeling now? Have you got back into the bboy scene at all?


I meant to comment on this a while ago and forgot. The salsa world is lucky you had this injury! Fastest learner I've ever met and an amazing recovery. Keep it up!

robincampbell moderator

 @floorology Yo Seth, I feel you man. I think my femur developed with an osteophyte (or a slightly malformed head) when I was quite young. It never hurt, it just slightly affected my right leg's performance - not even noticeable at first, but over 10 years the cartilage wore away. When I tried to pick up windmills in grade 9 I just thought I sucked, but now I know why :)I'm 6 months post-op now and it's an amazing night and day difference. My hip mobility is 360 degrees without feeling any catching or clunking anywhere. It took some time to build back the strength and stretch it there, but it's doing awesome. Performance wise, I haven't been able to test it as much because my right knee is not tracking so good and the knee cap is grinding - another long-term bboy injury - so I'm dealing with that right now, before my knee reaches the point my hip did.


That said, I went on a good 45 min hike, and also ran about 1.5km on a chip trail without stopping at about 4 months post-op, before my knee bothered me. The surgeon said it's been an uncommonly fast recovery. Most can't manage those activities until at least 6 or 7 months post-op.


With disciplined lead-up conditioning and post-op rehab you should be able to get back to a solid level of activity - it depends on exactly what's going on, and also how significant the cartilage damage is. Mine's pretty significant. I'll have to wait and see about breaking again, once the knee is ok. Regardless, I'm going to be able to enjoy a life full of physical activity going ahead, even if breaking ends up being too much.



robincampbell moderator

@delgadonatalia Haha I won't hold that lucky part against you. Thanks for the support - can't wait to be 100%!

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