Physical education teacher Michelle Myers severely fractured and dislocated her left wrist on Feb. 3 while playing polo at Eldorado Polo Club in Indio, California. Three days later, Myers had metal implants inserted during surgery. As of Feb. 13, Myers said she still does not know if her ribs are broken or bruised, but she said she expects to return to school on Monday, Feb. 26.
Q: Can you describe your injury a little more in depth?
A: So what FAO (fall on the outstretched arm) is is when you fall on the arm from a certain distance and speed, the arm will take the impact and it’ll fracture or dislocate – in my case, it did both.
(My wrist was also displaced.) Displaced means there’s a radial fracture and a displacement.
Q: How did this happen?
A: In a match, our number-one player (was) going to (the) goal. I rode a player off who was coming up to hook or ride off number one. Next thing I knew, (the) ball was going through the goal, so I released my ride off on the opponent.
I rode him off, which meant I pushed my horse in front of his horse to protect our side. He was trying to race past me and take the ball away from my teammate and prevent us from scoring a goal.
Then (I) saw his horse’s face hit my horse’s face – next, his horse was beside my horse, his horse hit mine, and she buckled legs going down. She tried to recover going left and threw me to the right.
I landed on my left wrist, fracturing and displacing the radius, hit my head and nose and hit my right chest – I’m not sure if (my ribs are) broken or bruised.
And you gotta remember I was going 25 miles an hour – it was fast.
Q: What did you do immediately following your fall?
A: I evaluated myself, of course, and decided that, one, I didn’t have a concussion, and two, my ribs hurt like hell but not so much I couldn’t ride.
If you’re an EMT (emergency medical technician), you do a head-to-toe check. You feel for body parts and evaluate breathing – and that’s what I did on myself.
I palpated my face to see if my nose was bleeding because it felt a little warm, like I was going to get a bloody nose. When I took (a) deep breath, I figured out I had done something to my ribs.
(I had) no bloody nose and, on palpation, no broken bones.
My wrist hurt, but (it was) nothing extreme. (I thought it was) probably just sprained, so I got on my next horse and continued playing.
Q: How much longer were you on the field?
A: I played until the end of the match. We only had one chucker (left in the game). In polo we have four chuckers, and each chucker is seven-and-a-half minutes long, but that could be longer for penalty shots and fouls.
I played through that last chucker, and then that was it. Not too long, though.
Q: Did you notice anything wrong with your wrist during that time?
A: My wrist was kind of sore, but I had never taken my glove off to look at it. They got my horse back for me, and then I kept on going.
I thought that my wrist was kind of throbbing, but it wasn’t until I took my glove off that I noticed the deformity.
Actually, I kept on thinking that my wrist was weak. I had my horse’s reins in my hands, but since I couldn’t do what I normally do with my hands, I used my legs to guide my horse.
Q: When did you finally realize this was a more serious injury?
A: It wasn’t until after (the match) when I got off at the end that I thought that I should look at my wrist. (Then I saw) bone was sticking up under my skin. So off to the ER I went.
Q: Did you do anything before going to the ER?
A: So first I said to my teammates, “OK, guys, I need to go to the ER.” They were all like “What?” I told them they needed to get my horse back to the barn.
Then I wrapped (my wrist) up in some ice I had in my ice chest and then drove myself to the ER. (All the players have an ice chest with water and cold towels so that they can pat themselves down because it gets really hot in-game.)
I took a horse bandage (we wrap horses’ legs for protection so that they don’t get hit with someone’s polo mallets) because I didn’t have an ace bandage.
Q: What made you decide to drive yourself to the ER?
A: If the ambulance had still been there, I would’ve taken that ride.
But I felt comfortable because of my degree. I could tell I wasn’t gonna pass out, so there were no artery issues.
I go down there by myself to play, so there’s no family there or anything. Most of the time, athletes have their family there. I would not have driven if I had thought it was a more major injury.
And the drive was only about 20 minutes.
Q: What happened after you got to the ER?
A: After four hours in the ER and knowing I had to have surgery, I decided to leave with a cast and try to drive home the next day. I made it to Bakersfield and had to call friends to come get me.
I had surgery a week ago by Dr. Stephen Hankins, who has done previous wrist surgeries on me.
Q: You’ve had wrist surgeries before this?
A: (In) 2015 I had to have carpal tunnel surgery and had to deal with my De Quervain’s. (De Quervain’s tenosynovitis is where the tendons don’t glide easily.)
(In) 2016 he did a release on my other hand. I’ve had surgeries before, but nothing to this extent. I’ve never had fractures and dislocations (before).
But these little surgeries helped prepare me for this: for things like putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, (getting) your shampoo into your one hand or (drying) your hair – little things like that – I was prepared.
Q: What was different between your previous surgeries and your most recent one?
A: It’s very different when you’re having parts put in your body. You have to be careful that your body doesn’t resist it or that there aren’t any infections.
Q: Is this your first polo-related injury?
A: No, it isn’t. I had another one in 2005. I fell off (my horse) and had a little tiny fracture in my back.
Honestly, though, this is my first major injury.
Q: How dangerous a sport is polo?
A: We’re pretty high risk because you have four players on four horses. Each horse is 1200 pounds, and each horse is going 30-40 miles per hour, and there’s a lot of turning and starting and stopping.
Sometimes the horse will have a heart attack, they’ll go down, and the player will get injured – but that’s not too common.
Q: How are you coping in the meantime?
A: Lots of good medication.
I have three or four pillows underneath my shoulder and my arm pretty much most of the day, and my arm is wrapped in ice packs a lot.
Things are better now. The first couple of nights I would set my alarm to take my pain pills. Every four hours I got up for the first two nights. I’m getting five hours of sleep at night, and I also take some two-hour naps.
For my ribs, I’m just doing deep breathing exercises every hour; I can now push myself out of bed much easier than I could before.
(But for my) wrist, I can’t do anything yet. The only thing they have me doing is to wiggle my fingers to keep circulation and keep the tendons sliding and moving.
Q: Has the school helped you?
A: (Assistant to the head of high school) Valerie (Velo) set up a meal train, so people bring meals for me at night and stop by the house to visit and ask me if they need anyone to help me out in any way.
The meal train has been good because I can’t do anything.
Q: Is there anything you still need help with?
A: Well, the only thing missing is a dog walker. I just need a dog walker. My dog’s a Belgian Malinois; her name’s Nichka. I was gonna have (senior) Yasmin (Gupta) come walk her, but she has a knee brace on. She’s usually the one who does it after surgeries.
Q: What’s going to be different for your students when you come back?
A: When I come back I’ll be on limited use of my hand. I’m gonna need (students’) help getting equipment, setting up and taking down.
—By Chardonnay Needler