The month of March has finally arrived. This wonderful month includes St. Patrick's Day, March Madness and Phantom Regiment's drill camp. Usually I would look forward to all of these events, but this season, I look to the drill camp with more apprehension than excitement. It's confession time.
I didn't actually march all of last season. In fact, my first show wasn't until July 2 in Madison, Wis. And it's all thanks to my lateral collateral ligament (LCL) in my right knee.^ Spring training started out as usual. I was sick, tired and sore, but nothing out of the ordinary. The first week of spring training is usually the hardest, because your body is adjusting from "lazy student" to "hard-working member." As far as I could tell, I was making the transition just as well as everyone else around me. But three days later, everything changed. We had just finished dinner, and were getting ready to start our final block of the day. As I was walking back to horn arc, I suddenly thought, "My knee hurts." Two steps later, "My knee hurts a lot." To this day, I have absolutely no clue how my knee came to be injured. Because I couldn't pinpoint any event that would signify to me that I was injured, I continued rehearsing for the rest of the night, including doing both run-throughs of the opener. Bad idea. I was in some serious pain the entire time. I had one set where I had to jazz run forward, and would subsequently end up limping for the rest of the piece. The next morning, I couldn't straighten out my leg. It seemed like everything I did caused me pain. I couldn't walk up stairs, and I most certainly could not walk down stairs. Putting weight on my leg sent intense waves of pain sharper than I had ever before experienced in my life. At this moment, a smart person would have realized that continuing to march in this condition would be a bad idea. Not me. I continued to march for nearly a week. I tried to dull the pain with ice and painkillers. I tried to hide as much of the pain as possible. Although I never outright lied to my staff, I certainly downplayed the extent of my injury. When the prescribed dosage wasn't enough, I took more. And more. At the height of my idiocy, I was taking upwards of 40 pills each day. (Author's note: DON'T DO THIS!) Just to put things into perspective for you, I'm the type of person that never takes any kind of medication unless it's absolutely necessary. It wasn't until I purchased a 500-tablet bottle of ibuprofen and thought, "This should get me through the rest of spring training," that I realized that I had a problem. Pulling myself out of the drill was the hardest decision I have ever made. It felt like I had given up, and that's something that I just don't do. After all, you have to be stubborn to survive a summer on euphonium. Luckily for me, the staff and membership understood and supported my decision the entire way. Although it was a tough choice to make, it was the right one. I went home for a day to have my knee examined by my physician. Although the diagnosis was relatively simple, we still couldn't determine what had set off my injury. Apparently the LCL is the least common ligament in the knee to become injured, and it usually happens to football players who have been side-tackled at knee level. When I got back to Rockford, I had a heart-to-heart with our corps director, Pat Seidling. In the end, I was moved into the alternate position, and an understudy was put into my spot on the field. I then had to wait until I received the green light from my doctor, the staff and Pat before I could return to the field. I made my triumphant return to the field on June 28. In order to prevent further damage to my knee, I sported the ever-fashionable industrial strength knee brace. To this day, I still have a tan line from mid-calf to mid-thigh. Although the knee brace gave me the stability I needed to march the rest of the summer, I unfortunately became dependent upon it. The pain was gone, yes, but my joint was still loose. Throughout the off-season I have done as much as possible to strengthen my knee. I know that this season is my last shot -- I no longer have the luxury of "next year." This drill camp will be my first opportunity to test out my knee in drum corps conditions. I am determined to march this final season in its entirety. Let's hope that my apprehension is for nothing.
Lanah Kopplin is a third-year euphonium player in the Phantom Regiment, and previously spent a year with the Pioneer. Lanah recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin (she's a Milwaukee native) with a political science degree, and will age out in 2005.