It Had to Happen Sooner or Later
This is a piece written by Kevin Doak on KevinDoak.com.
I got my bell rung… In other words, I hit my head, pretty bad on the side of the pool. After about 23 years of swimming backstroke competitively, I finally hit my head. I’ve had so many people (outside the swimming world) over the years ask, “Don’t you ever hit your head on the wall?”, to which I normally answer, “never, that’s more likely to happen to a young swimmer who can’t keep track of their position in the pool”. It finally happened to me. With false confidence like that, I deserve it!
I was swimming a morning practice with the other post grads at Club Wolverine and the water polo team had removed the backstroke flags to practice. This is normal for them but they typically replace the flags when they’re done. I immediately noticed they were missing when I walked on deck and planned on being extra cautious since I couldn’t rely on the flags to indicate when I was 5 yards away from the wall.
Almost the entire practice went well. I never came close to hitting the wall, I would tip my head back and look for the wall each time and count my strokes accordingly, no problem. The issue was when the assistant water polo coach returned toward the end of our practice and put the flags back up. I saw her doing it and was relieved I wouldn’t have to look out for the wall. I never expected was that the flags were in the wrong place. She had forgotten to push the flags out a bit toward the middle of the pool along a cable they have strung there. Therefore the flags were hanging 3 yards away from the wall instead of the regulation 5 yards.
Unfortunately we were working on “Speed” that morning. We had surgical tubing attached to the block and at the other end at our waist to simulate extremely fast swimming. Therefore, combine fins, and surgical tubing as power adders in this situation. Compared to every other moment of my swimming career, I was traveling through the water faster than ever before, probably exceeding 5mph (the human water speed record is 2.35 m/s which is approximately 5.25mph). Since I was swimming backstroke, I was looking for those backstroke flags to indicate where I was. I remember thinking “This doesn’t seem right”, at that moment, I tilted my head backward toward my spine to aim my eyes forward in the water to see the wall. I was swimming so fast that I covered that 3 yards in the amount of time it took me to look forward. As I tilted my head back, I saw the end of the pool underwater and shut down my stroke but it wasn’t enough time to slow down. My arm hit the edge of the pool near my wrist which probably helped me slow down a bit. Next my head struck the stainless steel gutter at the top of my forehead near my hairline. I remember hearing the “BOMMMMMMM” of the stainless steel as I made contact. I hit it quite hard.
Apparently nobody saw it but a few other swimmers, along with the lifeguard on duty heard it! I was still fully operational so I hung on the laneline to gain my bearings again. I was a little dizzy and decided to call it a day. The trainers were onsite and demanded that I get checked out for a concussion before I left. I packed up my equipment and headed for the locker room. It was minutes later when I realized I forgot to drop my equipment bag in the cart on deck. I certainly wasn’t firing on all cylinders. I sat in the shower for a few minutes to make sure I was ok to be walking around. After getting dressed I headed up to see the trainer and get checked out.
The trainers (who, by the way, are awesome), did the routine check of my general reflexes and eye tracking along with asking me the 20 questions. It was comprehensive and I felt better knowing I could perform all the tasks. I had a slight headache the rest of the day but other than that, I made a speedy recovery.