Admit It: Your Joints Suck

Admit It: Your Joints Suck

Tell me if this sounds familiar.

After a few minutes of stretches and basics, your warm-up is complete. The squad has assembled, the music is bangin, and you’re finally ready to start killing the session. You take a deep breath, and launch yourself into a glorious cart dub.

But in the split second before touching the floor, you can already tell you’re gonna land a bit short. Your feet jam themselves into the ground, sending a familiar jolt of pain through your ankles. But you mostly walk it off, decide against power twists and risky stuff for the rest of the session, and continue throwing tricks, wincing at the persistent pain in your ankles and laughing them off as “a little stiff” whenever someone asks.

This is kind of a massive problem.

Especially when it comes to our ankles and our knees, we trickers put a lot of stress on our joints. And how could we not? We’re throwing ourselves into the air with a ton of force, often relying on one leg at a time to not only withstand the landing, but also throw us back into the sky. We’re basically like Goku using Kaio-ken, wielding so much power and energy that our body inevitably starts to pay the price.

But the thing is, we don’t want to make a big deal about it. Trickers are not ones to whine and complain, and we have a remarkably positive, hopeful, happy culture. Bring up any number of samplers on YouTube, and they’re usually filled with smiling, ecstatic trickers who seem to not have a care in the world. And every real-life session is filled with people saying, “You can do it! You can DO it!!” when honestly, the person in question may not actually have the skill foundation or the joint health to safely “do it” at all. 

I love the fact that tricking is so supportive and optimistic, but it can also inspire a borderline reckless strain of positive thinking. I know this because I suffered the consequences.

I had had pain in my left ankle for years. Constant sprains made it such that I couldn’t trick without tons of athletic tape and a heavy-duty brace, but I always told myself it was no big deal. I had watched trickers in tons of samplers pull off crazy stuff, apparently without an ounce of pain, so why should I worry? I was probably just being a wimp.

My wonderful, well-meaning friends also encouraged me to try tough moves despite my pain, and when I would land and feel another burning jolt, I’d tell myself it was normal. Of course my ankle was a bit “stiff” or “cranky”—that’s just how being a tricker works, right?

Then one day, my positive thinking led me to a new thought: “I bet I don’t even need a brace anymore. I should just suck it up and try some tricks without it.”

This was a huge mistake.

My second double cork of the night bought me a trip to the emergency room, and I eventually found out my left ankle was broken and torn all over the place. I needed surgery ASAP.

My fear is that this has happened to other trickers, and might happen to more in the future if we don’t make a change. We’re so hell-bent on positive thinking, optimism, and tricking through the pain that we aren’t willing to admit a simple, important truth:

Our joints kind of really suck.

No more “Oh, it’s fine.” No more “It’s no big deal, just gotta pop some Advil.” No more laughing it off as “just part of the tricker life.”

Let’s get real. If you are dealing with chronic pain, your joints suck. 

But if this were an easy admission, we’d have all made it by now. The fact is, it hurts to take an honest look in the mirror.

Just after my surgery, I finally came to accept that my left ankle may never be as strong as my right one. Never. And in that moment, I could feel my identity as a tricker begin to fracture. “Am I just damaged goods? Are my best years of training behind me? Can I never even dream of landing a triple cork?” If you’re dealing with persistent pain of any kind, these are the questions that start to haunt you.

But here’s the good news, and the whole reason I’m writing this: these are the exact questions that will save your body, and your tricking career. Because it’s only when we take joint damage seriously that we can take action to combat it, to take care of ourselves for real. As the great sage Jake the Dog once said, “Dude, suckin at somethin is the first step toward being sorta good at somethin.” Only by admitting that our joints suck can we make them not suck, through some much-needed stretching and conditioning.

Before, I’d finish a session and assume there was nothing I could, or even should, do to take care of my joints. When I got hurt, I’d simply take a week off, go back, and get hurt again. But now, I constantly do exercises from the legendary Dogen Titanium Ankles Tutorial, and some of Jujimufu’s writings on the subject are absolute gold.

I’ve also been using a thera-band on the regular, and recently, I discovered what I believe to be one of the best tools for conditioning feet, ankles, and knees: a dyna disc. It’s a little inflatable cushion, and when you stand on it with one leg, you’ve gotta contort your foot into all kinds of crazy positions to stay balanced. What better practice could there be for all those awkward landings? Especially since in this case, you’re actually bearing weight on your joints, unlike with a thera-band.

The result? I’m now tricking comfortably without a brace, and without athletic tape. That’s something I couldn’t say even before my surgery.

But don’t just take my word for it—do some research yourself. Find out which exercises will work for you and your schedule, and start giving them a shot. Before you know it, they’ll become just another part of your daily routine, and you won’t even think twice about them. Research shows it takes, on average, about two months for a habit to become automatic, but that varies widely from person to person. Only one way to find out, right?

It may have taken me a while, but when I finally accepted that my joints sucked, I had the incentive I needed to actually address the problem, rather than sweep it under the rug. I certainly hope that your joints don’t suck, but if they do, just remember that it’s okay. You’re definitely in good company, and when you decide to buckle down and make dedicated joint care a part of your tricking lifestyle, you’re deciding to keep yourself in the game for years to come.