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Squat Injury

By Gary F. Zeolla

    During my squat workout on Thursday, July 27, 2023, on the first rep of my second work set of squats, I felt a sharp pain in my right adductor (inner thigh muscle). I knew immediately it was terrible. I racked the weight and dropped onto my bench.  This was to be a set of six reps, so I wasn't going that heavy yet.

    I iced it, wrapped it, took some ibuprofen, and called my doctor. He just told me to keep doing those things and that he would call me back the next day to see how I am doing. But it is bad, really bad.

    The saddest part is, squats was the lift that was going the best, quite well in fact, probably because it was the powerlift least affected by my two shoulder surgeries. That is why I was thinking of entering a powerlifting contest before the end of the year. But no longer. This injury ends any thought of competing again.

    When my doctor called me back, he said he was referring me to an orthopedist. That means, I will be going back to the same orthopedic surgeon that did my two shoulder surgeries. I don’t know yet what will come of it.

    However, this injury means I won’t be posting any more videos on the Workout Videos pages. But here is a video of the injury.


    This bruise on my leg I injured nine days ago just appeared this morning (Saturday, 8/5/23). Making it stranger, the bruise is several inches below where the pain is located. A similar bruise appeared on the respective biceps a few days after each of my shoulder surgeries. I guess it is common for a bruise to appear after an injury below the actual injury site days afterwards.

    My appointment with the orthopedic surgeon that did my shoulder surgeries is on the 14th. I won’t know any more until then.

From Injury to Orthopedist Appointment

       Backing up a bit, I took the weekend after the injury off of lifting. I then only did upper body work until Thursday (8/3/23), one week after the injury. On that day, I did Conv Deadlifts. I stopped doing Sumo Deadlifts a while ago, as they would aggravate my left adductor. Good thing, as now, there is no way I could do Sumos due to my right adductor. In any case, I worked up to about half of the weight I would have used if not for the injury. That was a bit encouraging.

      I then waited until Sunday (8/13/23) to do Squats, nine days post-injury. That might have been  a mistake waiting so long to do Squats, as it was very difficult getting down. I usually do a set of 15 reps with bodyweight to start, and it usually takes just a few reps to hit depth. But this time, after 20 reps, I was still not hitting depth. Strangely, what was keeping me from getting down was not my adductor but my hamstring. It was “catching” as I descended. I don’t think I also injured the hamstring. I think it was just tightness from the adductor radiating to the hamstring.

      Whatever the case, I did another bodyweight set of 15 reps and was finally able to get down. Then I did two sets with the bar with about the same results, then two sets with 65 pounds. I tried 85 pounds, but I could tell it would hurt too much to descend all of the way down, so I stopped there.

      Over the next week or so, I did a couple more Deadlift and Squats workouts. For them, I was able to do a bit more, getting up to a bit over half my originally planned weights for Deadlifts and bit less than that for Squats.

      Meanwhile, I wes able to do my planned Bench workouts and other upper body work, but only by  wrapping my upper leg with a knee wrap throughout those workouts. But I loosen it and rewrapped it at least a couple of times during the workout, so as not to choke out my lower leg too much.

      I also wear the wrap while setting up and cleaning up for my Squat and Deadlift workouts and whenever I am doing anything around the house that I fear might aggravate the injury. I am also still taking the ibuprofen and icing my leg after workouts and at least a couple of more times through the day. I also began to use heat on my leg before my workouts.

      Along with Squats and Deadlifts, I am doing the same adductor/ abductor exercise I have been doing for years. That being to stand, keeping my leg straight, to raise my right leg to the left over my left foot then to the right, away from my body. Then the same with the left leg.

      I am just using the weight the weight of my foot without shoes at this point, but eventually I will add the weight of shoes then use ankle weights. I am doing two sets of 15 reps working up to 30 reps before adding the indicated weights. Here is a video of this exercise, though it is from years ago. That is why I am wearing ankle weights in it.

      When I first did this exercise a few days post-injury, I could barely move my injured leg to the left or right. But by 2-1/2 weeks post-injury, I could move it about as far each way as before the injury  I am doing this exercise three times a week, usually in the mornings, using heat before and ice afterwards.

      Meanwhile, since the injury, my morning pain and stiffness from my fibromyalgia and stiff person syndrome (SPS) have gotten much worse. I am literally in pain and stiff head to toe when I wake up in the mornings and even in the middle of the night when I need to get up to use the facilities. And the stiffness persists for much longer. Previously, it would clear up within a few minutes, but now it persists through much of the morning. I am not sure if it has worsened due to referral pain and stiffness from the injury or from not working out. But it is getting to the point that I can barely get out of bed and fear one of these days I won’t be able to do so. My fibro-fatigue has also worsened.

      But that aside, I am encouraged by the progress I am making in rehabbing the injury. It doesn’t appear to be as serious as I first thought.


Orthopedist Appointment


      I had the scheduled appointment with the orthopedic doctor who did my two shoulder surgeries on Monday morning, August 14, 2023. When I first made the appointment the day after my injury, I figured by now, 2-1/2 weeks post-injury, I would have already figured out how to rehab the injury and how serious it was, and that proved to be the case. I considered canceling the appointment, but thought it best to keep it just to be sure the injury wasn’t anything serious.

      They first took X-rays. I’m not sure why, as I knew I hadn’t broken anything. But the X-rays did enable the orthopedist to see that my hip joint is just fine, except for just a bit of arthritis, But the amount is normal for a 62-year-old. That was good to know.

      It is just my right shoulder that has significant arthritis, and that from my bicycle accident over 24 years ago. That means my years of lifting weights and powerlifting have not damaged my joints. Just a point to note for anyone who thinks such is the case.

      I then showed the orthopedist the video of my injury. He just said as is obvious that was was just a “normal squat.” That is what I wanted him to see, that it was not a traumatic injury caused by some kind of accident.

      I then showed him the picture of the bruise on my leg from nine days before. I am glad I took that picture, as by the time of this appointment the bruise had mostly cleared up, which I figured would be the case, hence why I took the picture in the first place.

      He said that it was normal for such a bruise to appear after an injury. He agreed with my assessment that it was similar to the bruises that appeared after my shoulder surgeries. He also explained that the reason the bruise appears below the actual injury site was simple—gravity. The blood is pulled down and pools below where it rushes to in reaction to the injury.

      He chuckled when I told him about the people spazzing out on social media in reaction to my posting that same picture, with some people screaming, “Get to the ER NOW! It could be blood poisoning!” I just ignored those hysterical warnings, and was correct in doing so.

      Otherwise, he checked out my leg and how much it hurt when he moved it in various ways. The answer for each direction was he couldn’t move it very far without it hurting. He also felt it and said there didn’t appear to be anything damaged in the muscles.

      Overall, he didn’t seem too concerned about it being serious. He said it would take about another month to fully heal. I told him that was encouraging, as I figured it would be much longer than that. But he did emphasize to be very careful until then to not reinjure it. Namely, to not try to go too heavy too quickly in my workouts, something I had already planned to avoid doing.

      I showed him how I did the exercise described above, and he said that was appropriate. I also asked him why it was that my right adductor seemed to hurt more when I moved my left leg away from my body to the left than when I was working the injured leg. He smiled and explained that that was due to my right leg being activated to hold my entire bodyweight.

      Finally, he said just to keep doing what I was doing and that he did not think physical therapy was warranted, as I was doing just fine on my own.

      Overall, the appointment was mostly a waste of time, as I figured it would be. But the reassurance that the injury was not too serious was helpful in terms of calming my nerves. And learning I did not have arthritis beyond what is normal for my age was good to find out.

      However, I did feel awful afterwards and through the next morning as is always the case whenever I leave my house due to my multiple chemical sensitivities. But that is another story.

      On a side note, during the appointment, I had the sense that something looked strange about the orthopedist but couldn’t put my finger on it. Later it hit me—after 2-1-2 years of going to him, this was the first I saw his face! That got me thinking, as children are going back to school, those in third grade or less, this will be the first time they will actually see the faces of their classmates.


Cause and Plans


      What caused this injury? It could have been that I was feeling stiffer than normal for the workout. It took several reps more than usual on my initial bodyweight warmup set to hit depth. That ongoing stiffness could also be behind my previous left adductor and oblique injuries. There is not much I can do about the stiffness itself, as it is part of my SPS. But I am thankful it is not as bad as it could be.

      However, as it is, I will be changing my workout routine. My longstanding basic plan is to work out four days a week, alternating Squats, Benches, Deadlifts, and Bench Assistance workouts. However, I have been thinking it might be better to squat twice a week to keep my lower body stretched out.

      As such, rather than doing two Squat exercises once a week, I will do one Squat exercise twice a week, plus some isolation work. I will keep the other three workouts the same. That pattern will have me lifting five days a week. It will also have me training Squats and Deadlifts differently, when my normal pattern has always been to use the same format for both. But I need to try something different to avoid this problem happening again.

      In addition, rather than doing what I did after my two shoulder surgeries, that being to do hundreds of bodyweight reps then gradually dropping the reps and increasing the weight over a period of months, this time I am sticking with lower (3-7) reps but using very light weights. I will then gradually increase the weights over the coming weeks and months.

      I figure what I did previously obviously did not work, as all of that work and boredom I endured doing hundreds of reps is now for naught. I think that doing hundreds or even dozens of reps just did not prepare my body for using lower reps, no matter how hard I worked on the higher reps. 

      Another possible cause of the injury could be outside of my training. I have been under a lot of stress lately for personal reasons. Maybe all of that cortisol surging through my body left my leg in a vulnerable state. There is not much I can do about the stress, as the stressors are out of my control. But maybe I can learn to deal with them better.

      But whatever the cause, hopefully, I will gradually progress as planned. But I am sure it will be several weeks or even several months before I get back to where I was before the injury and even longer until I get back to where I was before this whole ordeal began 2-1/2 years ago, if I ever back to that level of lifting again. That is why once again I am unsure if or when I will ever compete again.

      In the meantime, at least I can still bench and do other upper body work. Maybe by the time I am back to doing heavy Squats and Deadlifts again, my Bench will be back to par with those lifts.


Two Month Update


       As I write this update, it is September 28, 2023, so it has been two months since I injured my right adductor. It is doing much better. I have been progressing as planned, adding an average of ten pounds to each of my squat exercises each week.

      A couple of weeks after my appointment with the orthopedist, on September 1st, I had a previously scheduled appointment with my PCP. He confirmed that my plan of adding ten pounds a week was a good idea. He also said it was good I was squatting twice a week to better rehab the injury.

      However, I am still far from where I was before the injury. My squat is about 100 pounds down from where it was before the injury and another 50 pounds down from where it was before my series of injuries began over 2-1/2 years ago. That means I still have many weeks of training to get back to where I started, if I am ever able to get back to that level again now that I am in my early 60s.

      Meanwhile, my left adductor has been a bothersome of late. I think it has flared up a bit, as I never fully rehabbed it in the first place. Remember, it was injured a week before my second shoulder surgery, so I was limited in what I could do for it at that time.

      Also, I did not take the immediate steps I did this time, starting with stopping in my workout, doing nothing after the injury. I stupidly tried another set to see how bad it was. That is a mistake lifters often make, but it is the worst thing you can do.

      I also did not immediately put ice on it, take ibuprofen, and then wrap it like I did with my right adductor. Those simple steps probably lessened the damage this time. In a way, it was good my right adductor injury hurt so much when it happened. That kept me from doing the “seeing how bad it is” set and caused me to take those other immediate steps.

      My point is, what you do immediately after an injury and in the short term afterwards can make a big difference in the long-term prognosis of an injury. I did it all properly with my right adductor but not with my left. Thus, despite the injury to my right leg initially seeming to be worse than my left, since I handled it in a smarter manner immediately after the injury, it is doing better than the left. Consequently, I am hoping my right adductor will be okay, but I might have long-term problems with my left adductor. Only time will tell.


Final Squat Injury Update

       It is now November 30, 2023, or four months since my right adductor injury. I was going to say it is completely healed. But I did feel a bit of a twinge in it in a recent deadlift workout. That proved to be nothing, so I still think it is healed, though I might feel a bit of pain in it now and then.

      That is the case with my other previous injuries. My left adductor still bothers me from time to time. My left oblique has a dull pain that is almost always there that flares up a bit worse now and then.

      Most of all, my right shoulder is still very bothersome. It often aches, especially after workouts or with just normal daily activity, especially if I try to do anything overhead. But that relates back to my bicycle accident and the now resultant arthritis building up where the bones were cracked, not due to my rotator cuff surgery on it.

      There is not much I can do about it. The orthopedist mentioned that I might need a shoulder replacement someday. But I did some quick research, and a long-term restriction after such a surgery is you cannot lift more than 30 pounds!

      That shocked me and would of course be the end of any weightlifting. For that matter, I often receive packages that weigh more than that. As such, I will try to avoid that option as long as possible, preferably never.

      However, I thank God my left shoulder is just fine after its surgery. That confirms that the ongoing problem with my right shoulder is due to that long ago accident and not my recent rotator cuff troubles.

      I also thank the LORD that what I thought would be my sixth injury in the past two and half years proved to be nothing. I felt a twinge in my middle back, to the right between the spine and side while deadlifting.

      I didn’t think much of it at the time, but then I tried to do decline sit-ups, and I wasn’t able to lean back at all. That surprised me a bit. But I iced it and took ibuprofen over the next couple of days, and by my squat workout three days later it felt fine.

      Finally, in recent workouts I reached milestones on all three powerlifts. For the  first time since this whole ordeal began back in March of 2021, I was able to put a pair of 45s on the bar for benches (135 pounds). For the first time since my adductor injury this July, I was able to put two sets of plates on the bar for squats (225 pounds), and three sets for deadlifts (315 pounds).

      I know that might not sound like much for you big guys. But I am only 5’0” tall and weigh about 120 pounds, and I am now 62-years-old. And with  my multitude of injuries of late, I thank the LORD for that progress.

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