With a Silver medal from the Delhi Commonwealth Games in 2010, Charline Joiner was focused on representing Scotland at the home games this month, until a bad crash in January set her back. But through hard work and dedication, she’s back on track
During the final group effort of a long ride, while on a training camp with Scottish Cycling out in Girona, a touch of wheels at the front saw a crash unfold.
“Everyone behind it came down, I went over the handlebars and landed on my back, on top of a bike,” Joiner recounted. Despite excruciating pain in her right leg Joiner tried to move herself off the bike and out of the road.
As she did electric pain surged around her body, preventing her from moving. “The pain then went from my leg to my lower back. I knew I had done something bad.” It turned out Joiner had actually broken the right transverse processes of her L2,3,4 vertebrae.
These are the little wings, which come off the side of each vertebra, which the hip flexor muscles are attached to. “I never thought it would be my back. I thought maybe bruised kidneys”.
After bed rest for five days and being in a Spanish hospital it was a relief for Joiner when she finally got home. “Initially I was hospitilased in Spain for eight days.
Coming home allowed me to truly let out all my emotions.” With Doctors explaining the average healing time for these bones was three months, the Commonwealth Games remained a possibility, if recovery went well.
It was going to be a slow process though, just at the time she’d usually be ramping up her training. “At first my main focus was just to walk again, sit up on my own, get dressed on my own and just become independent and normal again.
It wasn’t till I was able to pedal for 10 minutes on the turbo that my focus for the Commonwealth Games returned.”
At the beginning of her recovery Joiner was still in a lot of pain but surrounding herself with supportive and positive people helped, along with high doses of pain medication.
“My family, boyfriend and friends played a very big part in ‘keeping me together’ through the rehabilitation period. In the early stages when I was sore, having a shoulder to cry on was very important to me.”
Joiner was also lucky enough to have help from Scottish Institute physiotherapist David Brandie. “David was behind getting me back to my best ever shape, to then be ready to take on the training when I was able to. I wanted every little thing explained to me, the why and how of everything and he was very patient with me.”
Getting back to race fitness was a long way off; the first step was being independent and walking again. “First it was with two people aiding me, then one, then with a walking stick and eventually on my own.
I went from shuffling to actually lifting my feet off the ground. It was always a massive deal when I managed to do something normal again like get out of bed on my own or put my socks on.” For Joiner this really put things into perspective and showed how lucky she was, as her injuries could have been a lot worse.
After just three weeks Joiner was back on her bike. “I was on a static bike, only for five minutes, with my back brace. I gradually built up the minutes on the bike then transferred to the turbo.” Joiner followed her physiotherapist’s advice and did everything she was told.
She did physio exercises twice a day to build her strength and her core, and after two months she was putting pressure through the pedals. “I began to train properly on the turbo and was given the go-ahead to start lifting weights again. By month three I was allowed to get back on the road.”
Only four months after breaking her back, Joiner was focusing on the track, training to make the qualification time for Glasgow 2014. By the end of May she was back racing with her team Pearl Izumi Sports Tours International at the Tour Series.
“The first two races my tactics weren’t the best as I was sitting near the back of the front bunch making it hard for myself, but by the third race I was back into the swing of things.”
Despite a gradual start Joiner still managed to finish second overall in the series, showing that the enforced rest may have actually done her good.
“I went back into racing acting as if nothing had happened with a winning attitude, for me this is the only way to do it. Positive mindset!”