Ice Network

Hubbell's scope: Ice dancer takes surgery in stride

Four Continents champion rehabbing at Olympic Training Center
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Madison Hubbell goes for a ride on an exercise bike just eight hours after undergoing hip surgery in Vail, Colo. -courtesy of instagram.com/splashmadison

Here I am, writing my last Olympic season blog, sitting at the Olympic Training Center (OTC) in Colorado Springs. While the location is fitting, the brace that entraps my hip and the crutches next to me are not so picturesque. As most skating fans know by now, I struggled through an injury all year -- never the thing an athlete hopes for, especially during the Olympic season. I pushed through the best I could, but we came up 2.17 points shy of our goal. Despite my lack of training, and constant pain, our year did bear some fruit. We were able to grab our first Grand Prix medal, and we also became Four Continents champions, the latter securing us a strong world ranking going into next season.

More than these things, I learned about the strength that Zach [Donohue] and I have together. We were able to close the gap between ourselves and our competitors, despite my condition. It was a struggle to complete even one run-through a week leading into nationals, while we saw our training mates and competitors completing at least five times our workload. The moment I finished my free dance at nationals was pure joy, and relief. Our mental strength, strong before, is now unbreakable.

So, why are we not going to worlds? An extra two months of training meant another cortisone injection into my hip socket and the risk of making my injury worse. With the support of my family, coaches and Zach, I came to the conclusion that I would be better off getting my surgery as soon as possible.

I had my surgery March 4 with Dr. Phillippon at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo. There was no way to know until after surgery was complete how long the recovery would be. I am happy to report that there were no unexpected surprises. The surgeon was able to smooth out the impingements that were found both on my socket and femur head, and then anchor my torn labrum back to my bone.

What most of my readers do not know about me is that I really love watching surgeries. I am the weirdo who watches wisdom tooth impaction or appendectomies or labrum repair before I get them done. Unlike other surgeries, the videos of arthroscopic procedures aren't decipherable to an uneducated eye. So when the nurse told me that I could be kept awake during surgery, and have only minimal sedation along with a spinal epidural, I was so excited.

Well, I think there must have been some discussion with the anesthesiologist behind my back. Because there I was, all ready to get wheeled into surgery, having my last moments with my mom, when they gave me "a little cocktail." It took only about 30 seconds until I turned to my mom to say, "Hey, I think this stuff is pretty good." Unfortunately, all that came out was, "Hey, I think..." and then uncontrollable laughter while being wheeled into the OR. I remember the epidural, which didn't even phase me, and then giggling while the cute male nurse helped my now limp legs onto the table. And immediately after, the cutie turned to the anesthesiologist and said, "I think it's time give her more." I took this personally, since I wanted to keep talking (giggling) with the nurse, but I think he just wanted me put to sleep. Next thing I know, I am waking up back in my hospital room. Amazingly, in eight hours, when I was just barely able to feel my legs enough to stand, I was put on a stationary bike to start rehab.

I am completing my first 3-1/2 weeks of rehab with the amazing sports medicine staff here at the OTC. I am now two weeks post op and feeling more optimistic than ever. Every day, I have new exercises and am doing between three and four hours of biking, swimming and range-of-motion exercises.

The brace and crutches that I mentioned earlier are definitely the most annoying part of rehab. The brace wraps around my waist, hinges only forward at the hip and then wraps around my thigh. If worn properly, sitting down can feel like getting the Heimlich manuever. I also find that it is seriously distracting from any cute outfit I put underneath it! As for the crutches, I have super-fancy, high-tech ones, so I shouldn't complain. They are called "Mobilegs" and look space age, but no amount of technology can save you from chaffing when you have to walk a lot. I am lucky, though, since I only have to use the brace for three weeks and the crutches for four weeks.

As for full recovery, I will just have to wait and see. It looks like I will be lacing up my skates around mid-April. I know that I will have to take it slow, but I can't wait to finally feel the joy of skating again.

In the meantime, I am trying to enjoy the things I don't get a chance to do when I am busy training.

I have been able to spend time with some friends that I usually only see at competition. Max Aaron was sweet enough to get me out of the dorms and even cooked me dinner a few times. This past weekend, I tried to repay the favor a bit, and I baked him banana bread and caramel bars. I have a girls night planned with Caydee Denney, and she is going to take me to her local nail salon for some pampering.

One of the coolest things to report has been getting to meet some of the Paralympic athletes. A Paralympic shooter named Mike was nice enough to give me a tour of the range. He even gave me a quick lesson in shooting air pistol. I surprised myself by not being too bad, but decided I shouldn't test my luck after hitting two 10.2s in a row. (Check out my Instagram for proof!) I also met a few of the Paralympic swimmers, and eating breakfast with them is now a highlight of every day. They invited me to Buffalo Wild Wings last weekend to watch my first ever sled hockey game, where USA won the GOLD!

All in all, I am having fun. I miss home like crazy and can't wait to see my family, but I will also be sad to leave my new family here in Colorado. Luckily, they will all be here when I come back 100 percent healed for Champs Camp in August.

Thanks to everyone who has supported me and Zach this season, and for reading my blog. I hope to see you all back here next season!

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