I played varsity tennis when I was in college (which sounds so much more impressive than it was; we were D-III and I hardly ever played a match that counted, but I had a uniform and about 20% of my serves were just killer) and without question my third most favorite part of that experience (after the camaraderie at first and the sport itself at second) was the injuries.
I never broke or sprained anything, but I did get shin splints and some strains here and there. Getting them was not fun, but leaving practice early (or needing to get there 10 minutes early) to get iced and wrapped made me feel like a regular goddamn hero of athletics — someone who was willing to suffer so that her team could succeed, more or less entirely without her so-called abilities. My teammates and I all did this — walking in affected limps to the cafeteria after practice, complaining about the ice but pretty clearly loving the athleticism implied by its presence. Plus, the time I had to lie down by the courts and have my legs stretched by one of our college’s hot trainers before a match was the most thrilling sexual experience I had that year.
I am of the opinion that I sustained a small stress fracture in my foot that last year, and that that’s the reason that my foot is still painlessly swollen today (three years later) despite being looked at by at least four different doctors. Today I saw a physical therapist. She seemed to agree with me. She gave me a foot massage and some take-home exercises. She told me to roll a tennis ball around under my left foot while I sit at my desk.
So far I’ve only really managed to accidentally kick it away six times or so. Every time I have to get back up to get the ball, I whisper “goddammit,” bring it back to my chair, and set it up under my brave, athletic foot. And I feel almost as cool as I did back then.