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Discussion: Thorn injury

in: Orienteering; Training & Technique

Dec 13, 2004 12:48 PM # 
Yesterday my bad luck continued in 2004 with a strange injury at the THOMASS Chase. I got a hawthorn into my ankle (inside). It hurt too so much I had to stop and pull it out. It hurt for a few minutes then I kept running. About 2 hours after the race and GHO's Xmas party it started to hurt and swell. Now it is so swollen I can't walk on it. The skin is all red and hardened (like a bad bee sting). Has this happened to anybody? I have a skiing holiday in 5 days and want to be able to ski. Taking anti inflammatories and antihistamines at the moment. (and I thought I had done everything possible to my ankles and knees in 2004 already).
Dec 13, 2004 1:08 PM # 
boris can tell you about his gigantic-hungarian-thorn experience. I recall he was running again after a few days.
Dec 13, 2004 1:47 PM # 
For all dire thorn matters, you could always consult with an expert from the Thorn Capital of the World, which is of course Kansas City. But you might want to sedate yourself first. Much of what they have to say about thorn-in-human-flesh encounters is so graphic and disturbing that you might find yourself seriously considering moving to some treeless, barren, thornfree wasteland where all you have to worry about is the wind and where you're going to get your maple syrup.
Dec 13, 2004 2:40 PM # 
You got infection! Warm/hot foot bath for 1 hour then cooling bath for 5 or so minutes (you may want to start with icing if it is swallen then switch to contrasting bath). Triple antibiotics externaly. Elevation. Anti iflamatory.

People's remedy in the form of aloe leaf may help. Split a leaf and apply to the infected area (tape it) for 1 hour or so (overnight is good). Miracle. See
for more info.
Dec 13, 2004 2:47 PM # 
I can second Mikell's Kansas City comment. Returned from the possum trot with a thorn lodged in the top of my head. No infection, but not too easy to dislodge.
Dec 13, 2004 3:40 PM # 
Jeez, seeing as how you're in Canada, have you thought about maybe seeing a doctor? If this is an infection, oral antibiotics might be called for. (And this being a puncture wound, you also of course want to recall when your last tetanus shot was.) I mean, you probably can't actually get an appointment to see a doctor until about March, but at least it won't cost you $2500 up there.
Dec 13, 2004 5:34 PM # 
Hehe, i'm sorry to hear about your injury mike, however I find it a funny coincidence since yesterday i managed to get about 30 small thorns in the top of my forehead. A very prickly branch (i suspect to be devils club, but the leaves would be dead at this time of year) whacked back at me when I tried to push it away. I managed to have the slightly larger ones removed, but there are still a bunch of smaller ones, and it feels like a bruise. Hope your ankle swelling goes down, do hawthorns have any sort of toxin associated with them?
Dec 13, 2004 5:57 PM # 
Thanks for the feedback and suggestions. I can limp now (ie., put a little weight on it) and I have an appointment to see a doctor later today (yes it is free JJ!) to get some drugs (almost free). BUT I am still interested in hearing about Boris' gigantic-hungarian-thorn experience.
Dec 13, 2004 6:26 PM # 
JJ's advice looks sound. I stepped on a thorn a bit ago, it nailed the shoe to the bottom of my foot. I didn't have any infection and my tetnus was up-to-date. My brother suffered a similar injury years fact, it was the last time he ever orienteered.

Here is the thorn:
Dec 13, 2004 9:21 PM # 
I'm having hard time reading this thread. Ouch!
Dec 13, 2004 9:50 PM # 
I am sooooo glad the briars around here don't look like that photo...

I heard Leif was thinking about stopping by KC for some training while driving home in the next week or two. Not sure if this thread will improve the odds of that happening, but maybe he just has to see one of those thorns in himself - Oops. Typo. I mean see one _for_ himself...
Dec 13, 2004 11:59 PM # 
Hammer are going to use this to whimp out of your traditional festive nordic thrashing from yours truly?
Dec 14, 2004 12:29 AM # 
As a frequent "ferener" in Kansas City, I've seen a few of the bad thorns but never had the pleasure of introducing one to my foot. For training there, the OK and Possum Trot Clubs are very hospitible with frequent evening training in the parks. Basic running on the trails and open areas is nice (try the Test Loop in Shanee Mission Park). The woods I've seen are less technical than in the NE but do often have annoying saplings or stiffer branches than a lot of places.
Dec 14, 2004 1:32 AM # 
Bring it on Nev! aka (none since Jun 23, 2004)
Dec 14, 2004 2:36 AM # 
It was a beautiful, sunny day in rural Hungary, somewhere around early July, 2001. The JWOC competitors had the day off, and the US Team "coaches", Mr.Attackpoint and myself, decided to run a park-o/sprint type event that the organizers put on. The whole event could pretty much be run on trails, but I decided to take one 'shortcut' that led me through a nice thicket and then on to a powerline that would lead me to the control. Alas, I never made it to the powerline... Stuck in the thicket for about 3 minutes, I ripped my shirt to shreds and ended up with a nice thorn (not quite KC style) through my shoe and well into my foot. Defeated, I limped on home and had to be treated by the JWOC medical crew after severe stiffness and some weird yellowness. It was certainly a nice spectacle for the JWOC ghetto, and did seem to cause much sympathy from the very friendly Ukrainian girls' team.....

Mike, I hope this thing heals for you quickly and that your bad luck goes away with 2004....

- Boris
Dec 14, 2004 3:20 AM # 
Just so everyone knows, there are absolutely no thorns in TX during February. They all go underground with the snakes. Looking forward so seeing everyone!
Dec 14, 2004 4:06 AM # 
On two occasions in my life, I've had a thorn stuck in my insole that pokes my skin only when I step on a rock or hit a log. The worst thing is when you forget about it when you finish and end up running another event in the same shoes.

I'm a big believer in Betadine Iodine, full strength after you've cleaned it and tried to get out the thorn. Supposedly, you shouldn't use it full strength after the first time because it disrupts the healing or something. After the cleaning and Betadine, I use triple antibiotic ointment.

What I watch out for is tingling, redness, and the sensation of heat. Any of those and I'm off to the doctor. The first thorn-in-the-foot experience I had included "blood poisoning", which is when this red infected area "grows" away from the wound. Mine was above my ankle (maybe 3 inches long) when I decided to go to the doctor. The doctor said the red area is growing toward your heart---When it gets there, you die.

Probably my weirdest thorn experience is after running Vasquez Rocks. I was finding thorns in my legs four weeks later, having not orienteering the whole time (meaning they could only have been from there).

Cincinnati, Ohio
Dec 14, 2004 2:25 PM # 
Finding small thorns in your knees later? Not an unusual occurrence for those who have run in areas that have barberry or devil's club. It's routine to have thorns working their way to the surface months later. Try a course at Allamuchy in New Jersey sometime.
Dec 14, 2004 9:28 PM # 
Over the years, I've had a couple of similar thorn injuries to Mike's: a large thorn puncturing a joint and resulting in great pain and inflammation. I've never had persistent redness or swelling, but often the pain mellows into a bruise-like symptom and lingers for several days. This has probably happened to me most commonly from large blackberry thorns in my knuckles. These thorns don't hold a candle to the thorn in Spike's picture, but they--along with Devils club--are plentiful on the western side of the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, and a foray off the trail in the wrong place can result in a bumper crop of small knee thorns emerging for days or weeks after a run.
Dec 15, 2004 4:45 AM # 
I may regret saying things like this in a public forum, but I've always felt that squeezing the thorns out of your knees afterwards is one of the highlights of a satisfying orienteering experience. And I know I'm not alone...
Dec 15, 2004 4:47 AM # 
There's an honest man.
Dec 15, 2004 4:56 AM # 
was anyone else at the westerns this year? the groundcover, on what must have been over 50% of the map, was a bushes with branches covered in thorns. On the second day everyone was putting duct tape on their pants, especially on their knees (the plants were just the right height to always hit the knees)! It was like a constant whipping by the sticks as you ran through, agravated (and made to sting!) by the small thorns already stuck in your legs.
Your knees looked like pincushions! days of fun ;)
Dec 15, 2004 12:31 PM # 
I am with WH on the thorn picking. And I have the added benefit that it drives my husband crazy when I do this while he is driving us home from a meet.
Dec 15, 2004 4:42 PM # 
If you take a look at the picture of the thorn that Spike put up, it's hard not to marvel how perfect his nickname is! And for those who might be wondering whenever OK might host another "A" event in Kansas, something else comes to mind: the adage of "being careful for what you wish for." Could this thorn be the missing weapons of mass destruction?
Dec 15, 2004 7:17 PM # 
Reading all this I can't help but wonder - have I been avoiding all the right maps or does the fact I have no idea what anyone is talking about mean my remaining lifespan will be measured by how long it takes one of the thorns that must have gone in and hasn't come out to reach a vital organ? People are mentioning areas in the northeast as well but overall this is very much not increasing my motivation to head west of the Mississipi to orienteer.
Dec 15, 2004 8:44 PM # 
Maybe you've been avoiding the wrong maps. I've considered writing an article about plants that I've come to loathe through orienteering, and there would be different categories, like pointy plants, itchy plants, plants that obscure the ground in aerial photos and make the basemap useless...

In the thorny category, hawthorn and locust are among the baddies, as well as the nefarious prickly ash. Greenbriar is another thing altogether, and I'd think you would have encountered plenty of it. Barberry and such don't slow you down much, but the thorns popping up later are amusing. In the southwest, you might have to contend with the likes of catclaw, shindagger, and cholla.

But don't fear going west of the Mississippi. There are a few thorns in Wyoming, but they're pretty elusive. Same goes for most parts of Colorado, and also for most other places out west. The worst briar patches I can recall having encountered while orienteering were in Maryland and Indiana.
Dec 15, 2004 11:26 PM # 
Hospital nurses seem much more attentive these days to signs of abuse or suicide attempts. So the nurse taking my history last year first inquired about scars near wrists (childhood scrapes), long scar on arm (Chicago greenbriar), but when she noticed the innumerable nicks on both arms she finally accepted the role of orienteering.

My personal worst experience was north of Toronto where poison ivy grows as ground cover in pine forests - I fell into it twice and next day I (and Cherie Mahoney) received lots of awe and sympathy. But I did avoid the "poison parsnip" that Zan and other juniors ran through in another Canadian meet.

In Missouri, we do most of our orienteering in open woods, but don't grab the PI vines even in winter. I do remember a very angry Wyatt Riley after the North Americans at Meremac SP - he was convinced he'd been running through poison ivy during the whole blue course and that we hadn't warned anyone. Fortunately, it was perfectly benign ground sumac turning red in the fall. How much time did you lose trying to avoid it?
Dec 16, 2004 12:16 AM # 
The most nefarious plants I have "run into" would be poison oak in Northern California. I've had large scale rashes from that (say both legs from mid-thigh down, as opposed to the little stripes here and there I might get from poison ivy. Actually, I don't think I've ever had any really bad poison ivy from orienteering, and the only poison ivy of note that I recall was up in Quebec. Clothing doesn't seem to give me much protection against poison oak, while it has been a good barrier against poison ivy for me.
Dec 16, 2004 2:21 AM # 
I am shocked the Swampfox, winner of Brad Hunt's first ROGIANE (AKA, The 24 hours of Greenbriar), would rank KC ahead of southern Ohio for carnivorous vegetation.
Dec 16, 2004 2:34 AM # 
The greenbriar at that Ohio rogaine was so hideous that I still regularly have nightmares about it. There were times when I was dangling off the walls of greenbriar on those 45 degree slopes that I was sure my whiskey sippin' days were all done and declared. I have warned my partners that if they ever ask me to rogaine with them again in Ohio it will mean war. Nothing against Brad and his fine crew, but those woods were more ferocious than anything I ever care to see again.
Dec 16, 2004 2:59 PM # 
Oh wait, that Ohio rogaine is the one I was thinking of, not Indiana. I have no memories of thorns in Indiana. It was Ohio. Unmapped greenbriar in the dark -- it doesn't get much better than that!

This discussion thread is closed.