That’s my left forearm in the picture, and the black band wrapped around the middle is the result of a rare incident — a fencing injury.
Despite having its origin in the deadliest of blood sports (I’ve got a sword, and I’m gonna kill you with it), modern fencing has a remarkable safety record. Cuts only occur when a blade is broken in the middle of an attack that cannot be stopped; bruises are commonplace, and the stress placed on key joints — ankles, knees, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists — are the source of the most serious fencing injuries, especially among veteran fencers like myself.
(And yes, older fencers call ourselves veterans. If you have a problem with that, come suit up and meet me on strip some time, and we’ll discuss which one of us is old.)
About a month ago, I woke up one morning to a throbbing left elbow. It’s been a little over a year since I switched fencing hands, and after decades of inactivity the exterior tendon of that elbow appears to have buckled under the strain. The common term for my condition is tennis elbow, and while it hasn’t bothered me during most activities, some actions are quite painful. I can lift objects, but bringing objects down from a height is difficult. I can read, write, and brush my teeth with my left hand without issue, but I now use my right when pulling doors open. And while fencing, I can hold the blade and even attack as I had before — but even a light parry will shoot enough pain through my arm to cause me to drop my weapon.
The black band in the picture is a tennis elbow brace. It’s wrapped tightly on the forearm, and forces the muscles above the brace to perform work with less assistance from the muscles closer to the elbow. As the elbow muscles rest, so too do the injured tendons. With time, the swelling decreases.
I fenced with the brace for a few weeks, but when it became clear the elbow was not getting better I decided it was time for a temporary switch back to being a right-handed fencer (fortunately, I haven’t sold my old equipment, making this a cost-free switch). So until my left elbow stops hurting, Lenny will be deferring to Renny.