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Return to KB Sport Series #2: Emily Doenlen

My first competition was after just a few months of training in November of 2013. I competed with the 12kg and got 103 reps. In December I competed again with the same weight and got around 130 reps. After that, I figured I was ready to move up in bell weight and started transitioning up to the 16kg. I decided that the Cali Open in February 2014 would be my next goal.

Ten seconds before the completion of my 10-minute set of One Arm Long Cycle with the 16kg bell, I broke my arm. The break is called a Galeazzi fracture and it’s when the radius breaks but the ulna does not – mine broke into three pieces. The week prior, I was attempting some work with the 20kg bell and noticed some soreness after my sets. I thought it was just soft tissue related, so I took the normal measures of massage, epson salt baths, etc. and lightening my training load.

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When I met with the surgeon after the break they showed in the X-ray that I had actually suffered a hairline fracture leading up to the competition which explained the way the bone broke. I had surgery two weeks after the accident. With an incision from my wrist to my elbow, they used a 6 inch metal plate and 8 screws to secure the pieces back together.

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Photo by Chris Doenlen

All in all, recovery went really well. I was totally out of commission for a week. Ten days after surgery I had my post op and was fitted with a splint which I had to wear with decreasing frequency for about two months. The most crucial part of recovery was physical therapy. I started three weeks after surgery and I went three days a week. Exercises started with squeezing silly putty, progressed to rotating my wrist while holding a weighted hammer, and eventually went to full circuits with an arm bike, resistance bands, and weights.

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Photo by Chris Doenlen

It never really occurred to me that I wouldn’t be lifting again. I like Kettlebell Sport. It keeps me in shape and it’s a challenge that (most days) I really enjoy. It was frustrating to start from the beginning again but I was extremely fortunate that I had A) a great surgeon and B) an amazing physical therapist that didn’t discourage me or make me feel bad about wanting to get back into sport lifting. She understood my goals and helped me get right back in stride.

After clearance from my surgeon and physical therapist, I switched my training to snatch and got back into sport workouts four months after my injury. My first competition was exactly a year after the break. I competed in 12kg snatch.

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Emily competing in 12kg Snatch at the Cali Open 2015. Photo by Chris Doenlen.

The biggest takeaway from my injury is that even though you might be able to handle a weight athletically, it doesn’t mean that your bones, tendons, ligaments have had time to adapt. Unfortunately it took a serious injury for me to understand the importance of a slower progression and really enlighten me to the value of proper nutrition and supplementation. This sport is hard and you’ve got to remember to give your body the things it needs to rise to the demands you put on it.


Emily Doenlen lives in Washington, D.C. where she owns a small letterpress company called Typecase Industries. After watching her husband Chris lift kettlebells for a few years in their tiny apartment, she decided to give it a try. While lifting kettlebells started as just a “good way to discourage gaining the newly married lbs”, competing in the sport is now a fun endeavor Emily and Chris share.

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One thought on “Return to KB Sport Series #2: Emily Doenlen”

  1. Great to see you bouncing back from this. Great story.
    I’ve suffered hairline fractures from b-ball and boxing–and that is the problem… They sneak up on you, but can severely ambush you later. You’ve even got me a bit paranoid, as I’ve had long-term soreness in my left arm from getting careless late in a snatch set a while back (probably should get it checked out just to be safe).

    A lot of MMA guys run into this type of issue. Even during training–if you get into traditional Chinese drills that see you “cross arms” again and again to tough the bones, it’s easy to develop such fractures, then take a major break blocking a kick. Unfortunately, you can definitely jump from hairline fracture to serious injury even on a small/fluke incident.

    That said, it is inspiring that you are back–and, btw, I’m also a fan of Chris’s work (albeit from abroad), as his programming articles have been very helpful with my own progress.

    Konrad

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