Similar in shape and weight to a cannonball with a handle attached, the kettlebell has been around for centuries. Today, they are a popular tool for fitness and muscle building. Competitive kettlebell lifting of weights from 8 to 32 kilograms (18 to 70 pounds) attracts devoted participants around the world.
Carol Addy, 62, of Bolton, is one of them.
“I was a long-standing runner,” she says. “As I got older, my body became resistant to running, with aches and pains. So I took the opportunity to do more dedicated strength training. That is when my trainer introduced me to kettlebells.”
Carol was captivated. She read a book by a world-class competitor and learned about kettlebell clubs. Kettlebell lifters do as many repetitions as possible in 10 minutes. All of which requires sturdy shoulders.
Shouldering the Load
For many kettlebell lifters, injuries, especially to the shoulders, do happen. When Carol sustained rotator cuff injuries to both of her shoulders, she turned to orthopedic surgeon Peter Kok, MD, with Orthopedic Affiliates for same-day shoulder surgery to help get back to competitive shape.
“The rotator cuff consists of muscles and tendons that hold the shoulder in place, and is especially important when doing overhead activities,” Dr. Kok says. “A rotator cuff tear is a common cause of pain and disability among adults.”
In 2018, Carol injured her left shoulder when she slipped on her wet outdoor deck.
“It was one of those freak accidents,” she says. “I was down before I even realized what happened, and I landed on my left shoulder.” Like many, she thought the pain would go away on its own. “But the more I tried to ignore it, it was clear there was something wrong,” she says. “It interfered with my passion — lifting kettlebells.”
Her primary care physician, Christine Brown, MD, with Acton Medical Associates, ordered an X-ray and referred her to Dr. Kok. An MRI revealed a full tear of her rotator cuff that required surgery.
Carol has a medical degree and is trained as an endocrinologist. She is the chief medical officer for a biopharmaceutical company. As a result, she says, “I have very high standards for medical care. I did my homework and knew Dr. Kok and I would have a good partnership.
“I was in peak shape when this happened, so I competed with one arm to stay in competitions,” Carol says. “I had a lot of trepidation about surgery because I was concerned I would not be able to lift any weight. I was nervous and wanted to get back to competing with both arms.”
The surgery was successful, and following several months of physical therapy she was back to feeling 100 percent. Fast forward to the COVID-19 pandemic when Carol sustained another shoulder injury. While working out in her home gym, her right shoulder started to “feel funny.” She theorizes that perhaps her form was incorrect.
“I went to see Dr. Kok immediately,” Carol says. “If something was wrong, I wanted to get it fixed and over with.” This time, it was a partial tear. Carol again had same-day surgery with Dr. Kok in October 2020. “I knew I was in good hands,” she says. “The teams I had both times instilled a lot of confidence. My anesthesiologist was a cyclist like my husband, which gave me additional comfort.”
Like most surgeries now performed at Emerson, she received a nerve block during the operation that resulted in less pain during recovery.
“I did constant ice and regular Tylenol and felt pretty good the next day.” Now Carol says both shoulders feel “crazy good,” and she is back to her busy schedule. “This is my Zen. It is a great meditation for me. I cannot let my mind wander. It sets the stage for my day, energy level, and outlook.”
Carol works out by 5:30 a.m. most days. Her workout routine is four days of lifting, two days of cardio or cycling, and one day of complete rest. She aims to return to in-person competition when meets resume following the pandemic. She is close to breaking national records while competing against people much younger.
“I am proud of the strength that I have at my age,” she says. “My bone density is very strong, which I am convinced has to do with kettlebell lifting.” Carol competes with a 16 kg weight, approximately 35 pounds. Her favorite lift is the snatch, and her record is 203 repetitions in 10 minutes. “That used to seem like an impossible barrier,” she says. “Lo and behold, after my second surgery, I was able to break this barrier. I give credit to Dr. Kok.”
About Dr. Kok
Peter Kok, MD practices orthopedic surgery and sports medicine with Orthopedic Affiliates in Concord and Westford. Dr Kok specializes in numerous athletic injuries that include the hip, shoulder and knee. He performed his residency at the Mayo Clinic and has previously served as a team physician for the Boston Celtics and Tufts University Athletics.
Use this online portal to book an appointment with Dr. Kok or call 978-369-5391.
Visit emersonhealth.org/ortho to learn more about the orthopedics offerings at Emerson.