For any athlete that trains on a regular basis, injuries are inevitable. We hear this from everyone….coaches, instructors, advanced students, and every article, blog, or news clip you find. So when something happens, it shouldn’t be a surprise to us. What really occurs following an injury is rather fascinating. Though we are all different individuals, our reactions to the injury are all similar – questioning.
Let me first say that the longer you are training, you will have a tendency to redefine an injury. The brand new Krav student, while practicing 360 defenses, will have badges to prove they’ve been training. The brand new jiu jitsu student will be covered in finger and thumb prints. The first time a muscle is pulled, a finger is jammed, or a neck is cranked, it startles us all. This is the point where we start drawing lines in the sand. The questioning starts. Some will take it easy for a while and then move on with training. Others take this first onset of pain as too much to bear (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.) and stop training.
If the athlete persists, training continues, often times with a new found excitement. “Look what I have overcome!” is often celebrated in the athlete’s head. When the next issue presents itself…a hyperextended elbow, twisted knee, or a stress fracture…the analysis starts again. You first realize that the previous issue you had was in fact, not REALLY an injury. However, this new one is most definitely REAL. You find yourself in the position of – “Here I am again!” A pivotal point occurs – do you heal and continue or do you stop.
Again, the questions are making laps in your head. After weighing out your pro vs. con list of reasons to continue vs. reasons to quit, you decide to heal and continue. You start training again feeling stronger, fitter, and more confident. You think maybe, just maybe, you are finally starting to get in the groove with that technique that has been a thorn for weeks or months. And then BOOM! Your brain and foot disagree on which direction you should go and your ankle rolls or some other fabulous injury. Maybe your thumb decides that it doesn’t want to be friends with your other fingers and tries to dislocate. An even more exciting event is when your shoulder decides to self-implode. Now you realize that THIS is absolutely an injury and those others were just bumps in the road on your journey. The process continues again, just as it had done time and time before. Questioning.
How we respond to our injuries is personal. No one can speak to your pain, to your circumstance, to your ability to heal. No one can rectify in your mind how this injury manifests itself in your life. Though badges from a 360 defense seems small, it’s quite a big deal when your teacher is asking you if everything is ok at home or if you need help. Though you would like to believe that a popped rib is no big deal and will only affect your training temporarily, you might be surprised in the difficulty of sleeping at night or putting on a seat belt, or picking up your kids. And certainly, no one can speak to how your imploded shoulder will affect your daily living – like lifting your arm in the shower to bathe. Training affects us not just in the gym, but in our every day life. That is always the ultimate goal! As such, our injuries affect our life inside the gym and out.
When any injury occurs, mentally one of the first responses is to start asking questions? Our minds race. How bad is it? How is this going to affect my training? How will this affect my life? Eventually we creep into the territory of questions we really don’t want to know the answers to, but have to ask: How long until I can train? Will I be able to train? Is this injury going to cause a lasting issue? At this point, unspoken thoughts are attempting to plant in our heads … Am I just too old to be doing this? This is a young man’s/woman’s game. Is this really worth it?
We each go through this process – questioning – to some degree before we can return to our trainingt. Again, everyone is different. To some, the first setback or injury is the one that ends everything. It is too painful, too difficult, and/or not worth the risk. Every time a new injury occurs, the same questions come to your mind quicker. Am I ever going to get better? Have I reached my maximum? Is the trade off worth this?
The hardest and biggest issue with each and every injury is this questioning and the fear that may accompany it. We are awesome Krav Maga and Jiu Jitsu practitioners, how can we have fear? I realize it may seem ridiculous, but to the person who has sustained an injury, questioning and fear can be overwhelming. Once a single injury has occurred, the fear can grow like wild-fire causing the individual to think of nothing more than – What if I get injured again? Where am I going to draw the line? The questioning and fear can be paralyzing.
Athlete, realize that an injury is going to happen at some point in your training career. How you handle the injury, mentally, physically, and emotionally, is individual. Understand however, that all athletes reactions are the same. No matter how great they are, how long they have been training, how nonchalantly they may seem in the gym, the questioning and fear is there. Don’t feel isolated! We each have or will endure something just as challenging. Understand that each time you go through the process of questioning and the fear creeps in following an injury, you grow. The lines in the sand may be located differently for each of us, but the end result is the same. You are redefining who you are as a person and who you want to become – a more competent, patient, resourceful, and well-rounded fighter. Press on, there is much more to come.