This Too Shall Pass
If you are going to play hard, at some point you are going to acquire an injury. Some will be minor, some will be major If I think back through all my years in sport, I don’t think there are many injuries I haven’t had at some point; from a ruptured hamstring, to chronic tendonitis, to knee surgery, to broken bones, to sprains and to tears. If you want to push the boundaries, you are destined to have an injury that derails you at some point. But an injury should just be a temporary derailment; something you’ll learn from and recover from. As my mother would say, “Darling, this too shall pass.”
Here are some key things that have successfully gotten me back on my feet time and time again and sometimes against all odds.
- Find a good doctor who knows sports. Some doctors just aren’t going to understand you. You need to have a doctor that fully understands that this is what you do and the solution needs to include that you will be back out there. If a doctor doesn’t have the answers, keep looking! You’ll find one that does and also understands your outcome goals.
- Talk to other athletes who have successfully gotten fully back to doing what you want to do after the same injury. What did they do for rehab? How long did it take? How did they deal with the adversity? What decisions did they make? I find this more helpful than almost any medical therapist out there. Talking to fellow athletes about who they saw for treatment, what they actually did and what they felt can speed up your recovery time more than you’ll ever know. They can help you avoid mistakes and push you through fears.
- Stop waiting for it to feel the same as it did before, accept it’s never going to be exactly the same again. Coming to this expectancy is the first step to getting better. The longer you sit on the couch waiting, the further behind you are. Deal with what’s in front of you and carry on with what you’ve got.
- Be proactive in rebuilding back. How you come back is 100% up to you. You have choices. You can sit around waiting for someone to hand deliver everything you need to get well on a golden platter. Or you can get up off your butt and focus every single day on everything you can do to get well.
- Watch your weight. It’s likely for a period of time that things will be different in your day to day activity level. This is when I see a lot of people throw in the towel and cave to poor eating habits. They stack on a ton of weight. This neither helps the jury heal quickly, nor does it make the process of getting back any easier as you heal. Adjust your nutrition to focus on healing and maintain your current weight.
- Surround yourself with people who don’t second guess what you are doing. There is always going to be a ton of people who are going to tell you that you are doing way too much. If you have a solid plan that is proactive, surround yourself with a team that supports you and helps keep you on track.
- Expect there will be some pains coming back. Coming back from injury isn’t completely pain free. Of course you are not looking for the injury to get worse, but, for example, if you have surgery or a major injury, the rehab and retraining will result in some normal pains as you come back. Regaining range of motion, lost strength and function can be uncomfortable.
- Be willing to retrain things gradually. Be patient with the process back. You are going to need to retrain the details. A huge mistake I see is people going from injured to expecting to go right back to full normal activity. There is a rebuilding process back that requires attending to each detail: range of motion, stability, firing pattern, strength, and so on. Details are important!
- Stop being scared of the “What ifs?” It can be tough mentally. What if I tear it again? Will it hold up? Can I really do this again? At some point you need to trust and decide. I look at it like this: I can chose to sit on the couch and those “What ifs?” will be safe and secure, or I can live the life I love, trust I pay attention to detail, and I’ll deal with the “What ifs?” when they come. I’d rather live the life I love then die bored and scared.
- Don’t always listen to the “rules.” If every time someone told me, “You’ll never do this again,” I wouldn’t have half the experiences I do in my life. Not all rules apply to every situation. Each situation is unique. If someone doesn’t know the answer, keep looking!
Injuries come and go. How you deal with them will determine the outcome of the athlete you will become. Managing injuries is never easy, but neither is anything worth fighting for.