Charlie Berry - Our new Physio and Elite Cyclist shares her experiences returning from injury ...

Hi my name is Charlie Berry - I am the latest addition to the team here at Active Therapy. I am a Physiotherapist and Elite Cyclist. I race for an elite team called Veloperformance. In this Blog post I recall My fairly Major racing accident last year and how i recovered and returned to training and racing

We had an awesome first season together winning over 16 races including the overall classification of the Portuguese cup, the British National Criterium series as team and as an individual.

I also had a good season, my first stepping up to race at national level. After having over 16 wins the previous year at a regional level. I learnt a lot from the racing, my team mates and my support system. One of my best results being a podium at National Road series round Curlew cup. I also gained enough points to get my 1st category race licence - This is a big deal!

The last big race of our season was set to be RasNaBAm a 5 day 6 stage race in Ireland. It was a big deal for the team as our main sponsor was local and would be helping at and watching us race, No pressure then.

Stage one was eventful but positive with our our team winning the best Irish rider and another team member winning Queen of the Mountains. Stage two had also been an eventful day with many crashes throughout the 89 Km route. The finishing circuit in Piltown was 19km long, consisting of three laps of a lumpy loop. A crash earlier in the day had taken out my team mate . Just before the finish, there was a slight bend down hill with about 500m to go. It was a pretty standard finish with a big bunch of riders jostling for position and the speed high.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw some girls crash mid pack, feeling relieved that I had been lucky to miss it. Until I saw a back wheel in the air very close to my face. At this point I knew there was no dodging it. I remember hitting the ground, hard, then being in the air again and thinking the only way is down...again.... Ouch!

At first it was hard for me to breath, I had winded myself hard and it seems like forever that you are just trying to catch your breath again. Normally I would be up and back on my bike by this point. But this time, I just couldn't, this scared me, I knew things weren't great. The estimated speed for our crash was around 55 kmph!

The first person I remember being with me was Rick our DS (Director sportif), his presence was so calming. Rick had been a great help throughout the season, he always looked after us well and I knew I could trust him. Lucy the race Doctor and paramedics were quickly with us as well. I was put on a spinal board with a pelvic binder on much to my disgust and initial wasn't even that bad. Then rushed me to hospital as they were concerned about internal bleeding, pelvis and spinal fractures.

Apparently throughout all this I was still very interested in finishing the race...In any fashion! Getting some protein on board for recovery...ready for the next stage, becuase I would definitely be starting that. Lastly, but importantly if my Garmin had been paused...because if you don't have the data...did it really happen!

At the Hospital I had multiple scans and much to my dismay remained nil by mouth for the next few days. Luckily my pelvis was fine, but the scans showed gas and air in areas of my stomach that it shouldn’t be there; this meant further scans with contrast which showed I had some internal contusions (bruises) and bleeding. Not surprisingly my internal organs had taken a bit of a battering. After a few days they reported it was small enough that it would be self healing and not require surgery...Few! I was kept nil by mouth on a High Dependency Unit for monitoring for 4 days.

During this time my team mates were still racing, but they still took the time to come in and see me... also bringing with them Snaaacks! They are the best!

My list of injuries at that point included:

-fractured ribs front and back

-fractured scapula-

fractured head of radius

-hairline fracture to ASIS (top of your pelvis)

-mild concussion

-mild internal bleeding and bruising to organs

- ligament damage to finger and wrist

-damage to tendons of the rotator cuff

- the tiniest bit of road rash

I self discharged myself in true physio fashion and went to watch my team finish racing. My team mates were amazing as I needed help with pretty much everything at this point and was in a massive pink cast….much to my delight.

While watching my team mates racing I realised I couldn’t feel my thumb, I visited the race Dr again and we cut the cast back, thinking maybe it was just too tight. An hour later and this hadn’t helped. So off we went back to the hospital. They cut the cast off, later re-dressing it to see if this relieved the issue. Which it didn’t. The Dr’s went back through my scans and realised my neck had not been checked. Cue full spinal protocol. This means being placed in a Miami-J collar having to lie flat on your back, only being allowed into 30 degrees sitting…which is nothing!!

I was X-Rayed and CT’d again and they found that I had some bulging discs in my neck. It’s hard to tell whether these were there before the accident or because of the accident. Due to the nature of this I had an MRI to check that my spinal chord was intact and not in any danger. This particular hospital didn’t have an MRI and so I had to wait for the local private MRI to have space. All while only being allowed into 30 degrees sitting and in my collar. Eating hospital food led flat isn’t easy! During this time Rick and Jo had had to travel home after delaying our ferry for a couple of days and my parents flew out.

I had my MRI and we waited for the results. The reports noted that the discs at the moment were not causing any issues with my spinal chord. This meant I would be allowed to travel home and would not need surgery. Further investigation found that I had minor nerve injury to my Brachial plexus and radial nerve but all the nerves remained intact.

I am back to work and back full training. I still have some minor sensation loss down my right arm and pins and needles into my right thumb. I was very lucky and it all could have been a lot worse.

I am very thankful to my team Veloperformance and the support team we had with us, Alison for sorting things in Ireland. My team mates especially Jo and Flo for helping me. Rick and Jo for staying with me in Ireland and visiting me, providing shhnaacks! My parents for flying out, helping me throughout and for letting me return to racing without too much of a fight! My friends for visiting, helping me and taking me on outings. The cycling community for always being supportive and helping my return to racing.


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