Since spraining my ankle last Tuesday, I’ve been thinking a lot about injury and how to cope with it when you’re an active person. I’ve been taking this one pretty hard, because it happened while I was getting over a cold, and everything seems 100 times worse when you’re exhausted and foggy-headed, but it’s been helpful to think about how I’ve dealt with this in the past.
Before derby, I’d done wushu for 7 years, and I ‘ve hurt my ankle twice before in that time, and also seen a lot of other people go through injuries. I also sustained a Level-1 MCL sprain earlier this year, and while that was, thankfully, a minor thing on the scale of knee injuries, it did require me to change my lifestyle for a solid month or so while it healed. It was a good re-education on how to make injuries bearable.
So, yeah, I’m reviewing these thoughts as a reminder for myself, but I figure it might be helpful for other folks who’ve recently been sidelined by injury, too. 🙂
1) Don’t train through an injury. No, seriously, don’t. Minor injuries can be the most challenging to deal with, in some ways, because it’s really tempting to resume normal activity when your injury mostly doesn’t hurt. But you know what? If you’re not sure whether you should be back on-skates or doing your normal training regimen, DON’T. If you don’t give your body the extra time it needs to get back to 100%, you risk making the healing process far longer than it needs to be. You may also end up teaching your body bad habits, or teaching yourself to play at less-than-100% because you’re trying to baby an injured body part.
Take the time to let it heal before you ease back into your training. Oh, and when I say, “ease back in,” that means taking it slow. Maybe try a mellow open skate session at the local rink, before you throw yourself back into a regular practice. Try a no-contact endurance skate before going back into scrimmage. Build up to it, and always be evaluating your own health.
2) If you don’t know what’s going on with your body, find someone who does. Piggybacking on the previous point, maybe you’re not sure if you should be training, but you’re going crazy sitting on your duff. If you want a definitive answer, seek expert help to tell you if you’re okay or not. If you have a good medical insurance plan, USE IT and get yourself X-rayed, or MRI-ed, or whatever else you might need. If you have access to health care, there’s no reason to guess at it. Sometimes, simply knowing what the problem is (or isn’t) can do a world of good for your psyche, and help you find ways to stay active without aggravating your injury.
If you don’t have insurance, seek out community health providers or sliding-scale options. Do some reading to find out how you can help an injury heal, or to help you narrow down the problem. We live in a modern age, and someone else has probably had the same problem you’re having, and has complained about it on the Intertubes. This is great for you, because you can seek out those experiences, look at what others have done to heal themselves, and find out what might work best for you.
3) You don’t have to lay around and do nothing. Yeah, some part of your body isn’t working properly right now, and that sucks. A lot. Thing is, you have all these other body parts that work great, and you can be using them, so why not do it? Cross-training is critical to success in any sport, so even if you can’t train like you normally would, there’s a world of other things you could be doing that can help you perform better in your sport.
The first time I hurt my ankle, 6 or 7 years ago, it didn’t have the range of flexibility I needed for wushu, but I found that I *could* go running and do yoga to keep the rest of my body fit and flexible until I could wushu again. When I hurt my knee earlier this year, running and skating weren’t possible, but bicycling helped rehab my knee and strengthen the muscles around it. I also spent time at the gym working my upper-body and core muscles, in both instances, and I have to say, having abs is pretty neat.
4) Be nice to yourself. If you’re anything like me, your sport is probably one of the major things you do to blow off steam, manage stress, and keep yourself feeling positive and capable. When you don’t have that outlet, things can feel pretty dire, so it’s especially important to treat yourself right by finding ways to lower stress, release negative energy, and just relax.
You probably have some free time to burn, if you can’t go to practice, so put it to good use. Read a book, write in a journal, do some meditating. Find some recipes on the internet and start cooking and eating healthier. Spend time with your non-derby friends. (yes, you probably still have a few of those, and they’d probably love to see you.) Go to bed early. Play music. Re-learn how to sew. Find a nice patch of grass and just watch the clouds float by. Do the things you always say you’d like to do if you had time for them, because right now, you do.
Keeping yourself engaged and expressive is only going to make it easier for you to deal with your injury on an emotional level, and staying mentally/emotionally healthy is immensely helpful for a body that’s trying to physically heal.