May 15, 2014 by David A. Brown
Fishing might not be a contact sport, but that doesn't exclude anglers from mishaps, injuries, and simple bodily wear and tear. Whether it's a specific moment of awkward movement or the ill effects from years of repetitive motion, professional fishermen experience their share of pains and discomfort. We sought out six pros who have dealt with injuries that limited them on the water and learned what they've done to alleviate the pain. Mark Rose Injury: Since his college baseball career ended in 1995, Rose has struggled with tendonitis in his right arm. Treatment: Cortisone shots for pain management helped for a few years, but in 2008, Rose underwent Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy. Human blood comprises white and red blood cells, along with platelets, which release healing proteins called "growth factors" as needed. Extracting blood, isolating the platelets and injecting this concentrated healing cocktail into the affected area hastens tissue recovery. Status: "It's about 95 percent healed now," Rose says. "I can still tell from time to time [that I had tendonitis], but as long as I can hold a rod, I'll be OK." Jason Christie Injury: A devout flipping fan, Christie's many years of yanking fish out of dense cover with stout rods and braided line have taken their toll on his left elbow. Treatment: In autumn 2013, Christie underwent surgery to relieve tendon pressure in his elbow. Status: Recovery has progressed faster than doctors anticipated, and, as Christie notes, actually getting out and fishing in early 2014 probably accelerated the healing process - kind of like oiling a squeaky door. "The elbow's great," he says. "I'm about 99.9 percent healed. I've had only a few moments of discomfort, but there's no pain, and I think I'm way better than I was last year when I couldn't even set the hook without going to my knees." Larry Nixon Injury: The Arkansas pro suffered the pain and discomfort of carpal tunnel syndrome in his right wrist for several years. Also, a particularly sharp jerk when ripping a lipless crankbait out of the grass exacerbated an existing case of tennis elbow, also on the right arm. Treatment: Nixon underwent the standard surgeries for tennis elbow in 2004 and carpal tunnel syndrome in 2006. Status: "The elbow is fine now - I have no trouble with it," he says. "The carpal tunnel surgery relieved the pain, but it left me with almost no strength in my hand. It's really tough in cold, wet weather. I have trouble with mashing the thumb bar on a baitcaster. I even dropped a rod in a lake because I couldn't grip it." Dan Morehead Injury: Years of repetitive fishing and bowhunting motions left Morehead with debilitating pain in his left shoulder. An MRI seemed to show a minor tear in his rotator cuff, but the problem turned out to be severe arthritic bone spurs. Treatment: The shoulder joint needed decompression, so last fall Morehead underwent surgery to remove some of the bone. Status: "Certain positions and certain things I do still hurt, but that's something you learn to live with," Morehead says. "The left side is doing much better. Now, I'm dealing with the same injury on my right shoulder, so I'll have the same surgery this fall." Luke Clausen Injury: Clausen developed tennis elbow in his left arm from the repetition of fishing motions. As he notes, the backhand swing in tennis is similar to an angler's pitching motion. In his case, the tendon had gradually frayed and nearly separated from the bone. Treatment: In 2007, Clausen's surgeon cut the tendon's remaining connection, cleaned up the end and reattached it to the bone with two screws. Status: "The first year, it was still kind of sore," Clausen says. "The doctor told me I'd have to get used to working with a shorter tendon. Now I'm 100 percent on that arm. Before, the pain would be crippling when I'd go to pitch, and more of that tendon would break free from the bone. Now there's no more pain and irritation in that elbow." Denny Brauer Injury: Defining "battered warrior," the bass fishing great injured his right knee decades ago playing high school football. He also suffered two serious spinal cord injuries - one that occurred during a casual fishing day on Lake St. Clair when the wake from a passing speedboat lifted his vessel with a sharp rise followed by a sudden drop that crushed a disc in his lower back. Treatment: Four back surgeries have kept him in fishing form, while a 2007 right knee replacement eliminated unbearable pain and restored mobility. Status: Brauer's left knee has deteriorated to the point that he's planning to have that one replaced soon.