There were 12 seconds left in the round. I was dominating my opponent. And then the rip happened. The elbow tore in a way that it is never meant to bend. My knee popped but the adrenaline covered up that pain. Enter the inevitable deniability about the injuries.
I was back on the mat the next day, fully convinced that the icing did the trick and that the over-extension and knee pops had magically healed overnight. I had a tournament that next weekend. Already registered, I was convinced that with a little fortitude the injuries were just a blip in my week.
I adjusted my warm-up to incorporate one-armed push-ups, since I quickly learned that my arm would not extend. I did hands-free drills, so that the nerve flaring that occurred when I gripped on would simmer down. I only did throws that didn't involve rotating since my knee gave out when I turned.
I survived practice.
The next day my coach and I agreed to pull me out of the event and I immediately began to focus on healing.
Icing. Taping. Resting. Only once this occurred adequately, did we re-visit my training regimen.
No one likes to sit out. Being injured can be one of the most frustrating aspects of athletics. Being sidelined while watching others improve, able to fully partake in doing what you love, while you rehab is mentally exhausting. It is so easy to convince yourself that you should just fight through the discomfort in order to train but this is almost never the right plan.
If your body is injured - it is telling you to rest for a reason.
Too often athletes, desperate to not miss a practice, push through pain only to further exaggerate the injury. By doing this you tend to over use another body part, unintentionally causing pain and discomfort in other areas. Additionally, you are typically so distracted by the injury that you are not truly gaining from the training- incorrectly implementing techniques.
So what do you do?
The good news is that an injury usually does NOT limit you to a wall and corner of defeat and no training. Injury time can be the best time to build confidence and mental strength! When an injury occurs it is critical to work with your coaches and even doctor to determine when it is smart to get back to 100% participation. Until then- FIND OTHER WAYS TO WORK!
Additionally, injury time is the best time to refocus on self care. Get some time with a massage therapist, some acupuncture, strong pod-cast time, sauna visits, cryotherapy, and dry-needling can get you feeling better than ever. By the time that your injury has healed, you will likely be feeling healthier than ever!
It is easy to forget that you have these bodies for life. That healing them and loving them really does matter. If you want to be walking around without discomfort later in life - take the week to rehab NOW. It will elongate your competition years and your health in the long term.
The focus on now often keeps you from seeing the big picture. Not wanting to miss one event can reduce your time in the game. Obviously there are some once in a lifetime opportunities too big to miss out on...Worlds, Olympics...but it is RARE to truly be in these situations that are once in a lifetime.
I remember competing in Nationals with a freshly torn ACL one year. Sure I survived a few rounds with tape, a brace, and ice but was much happier with my performance the following year, healed up, on a solid two feet.
It is hard to let ego go. To accept that healing is a critical part of the game. To remember that our bodies are for life and that typically, what seems to matter most now, should never be overshadowed by our health.
Until you are in tune with your body be sure to work with your coach to know when to tape, when to sit, and when to push through the pain!