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Doherty Curse

This latest crash has me rethinking my body and its penchant for injury

By Maggie Doherty

What used to once be a family joke now feels like a curse: Dohertys are accident-prone. When I was a competitive ski racer, injuries and crashes were part and parcel of the literal racecourse. My racing days are a decade in the past, but I still manage to do a fair bit of bodily damage be it on a bike or, most recently, ice skating on Foy’s Lake, which resulted in a concussion and bruised ribs. I’ve broken the bones on all my appendages, endured many a sprain and strain, and logged thousands of hours in emergency room departments and physical therapy offices. It used to be that February was my most common month for injury, which makes sense as a skier, but lately the seasons don’t make a difference. In springtime, I’ll break an ankle trail running. On the very first morning of 2024, I’ll smash into unforgiving ice. I may suffer from bad luck, or it could be as simple as what my high school PE teacher diagnosed: I’m a right-hander stuck in a left-hander’s body but in my family. I’m not alone. Just ask my brother or my dad.

The two of them have suffered grave injuries from serious accidents that make you wonder which distant ancestor was so much of a klutz that his or her genes carry through the bloodline, generation after generation, ensuring that the three of us left bearing the Doherty name will break toes after tripping into furniture. The number of injuries the three of us combined have incurred in the last five years is troubling as if we have a maligned collective wish to see how far our bodies can bend and break and then be rebuilt again. It makes me wonder every time I must see the doctor for an injury or receive a message from either my dad or brother about their latest hurt.

So, yes, we fall a lot on skis and off bikes, and we try our best to recover, creating an entire submarket of physical therapists to work on the Doherty body, while also stubbornly refusing to give up the slopes or trails after we’re healed. When you’ve spent your whole life roaming the woods and chasing gravity, it’s difficult to call it all off after a broken arm.

But this latest crash has me rethinking my body and its penchant for injury. I’m still recovering from my concussion, and it was one of the worst injuries I’ve experienced because I couldn’t read during the first month of recovery. Words slipped off the page and my brain couldn’t place them together normally. Reading and writing are my lifeblood and my life’s work. Not being able to read, write, or even listen without a blistering headache or feeling as if my head was locked in a fog inversion, was more troubling than trying to walk on crutches over slick ice in the grocery store parking lot. I can do a lot of my work with a broken leg, but with a concussion my work was on pause, which meant giving up assignments or asking an editor for an extension. I read for work. I read for fun. I couldn’t do either and had to rebuild my visual tracking thanks to the help of a concussion specialist and physical therapist.

I’m mulling over the reason – for there must be a reason, right? – why I’m so accident-prone. Is it a family trait or perhaps one of those ancestors of mine cursed our line, making some sort of ancient pact with a fairy in Ireland? It’s much more romantic to conjure a myth than admit that perhaps my gym teacher was one to something.