How to survive being injured

As an athlete, there’s nothing more annoying/devastating/frustrating/testing than when you get injured. All that hard work building yourself up. All your best attempts to not get injured. All that training and mental preparation you’ve gone through to put yourself in the best position as possible. It seems like it all goes down the drain as soon as soon as you feel that pain you dread- whether it be a sudden pull or a lingering ache. I can relate to that- far more than anyone should. I’ve had about 13 sidelining injuries since 2009ish and I’m praying that’s about all for now. Injuries, unfortunately, are an inevitable part of being an athlete or physically active and you’re a rare one if you can say that you haven’t been injured.

A couple of months ago, I joined the gym and began my journey towards making the 2020 Olympic 7s team (as you are probably already aware of). Anyway, a few weeks in, there was a week where my right hip was really sore. The pain wasn’t new but it was never as consistent as this. Anyway, as the hypochondriac I am, I insisted on going to the doctors as I was worried there was something seriously wrong. La la la, you know the drill. So after the doctor ruled out everything I was worried it might be, I was sent to do an x-ray and then to an ultra-sound. Both came back clear. I might just add that this was the fourth time I’d seen a doctor for this sort of pain. The first time I went, I was told to take laxatives. The second, it was just stress and anxiety (which wasn’t all wrong, but still). When I went for the third time, I was told I had endometriosis and was put on the pill (even though I wasn’t referred to any kind of specialist and wasn’t instructed to anything further than “just take the pill and you should see a difference”). The pill barely lasted a day and I decided against taking it after that. But that’s a story for another time.

Ok, back to the fourth doctor. After telling me that the results for both came back clear, she advised me to go see a physio. And that I did and I got the answer I needed. A couple of months down the track and I’ve been working at it to get back to training ASAP. The plan is that next week I’ll re-start my “return to sport” routine and then rugby starts on the 12th of January. It’s going to take time, but persistence is key and soon enough I’ll be fitter than I’ve ever been to be honest.

My situation has thus inspired me to write a list of HOW TO SURVIVE BEING INJURED so here it goes:

→ Think positive, think resilient, think strong
Your mentality during the time you’re out plays a huge factor in your return. Think positive- remind yourself that your injury is just a blip in your journey and you need to look optimistically towards the future. Work hard and you’ll be back before you know it. Think resilient- you can overcome anything when you put your mind to it. Don’t let an injury break you (pardon the pun) to the point where you give up. You can do this. Think strong- like thinking resiliently, you have to think strong to ensure that you can overcome whatever injury you have and work hard towards your return. Yes, it can be a struggle. A big one. But keep your eye on the prize. Don’t let your previous hard work go to waste.

→ Watch what you eat
When you’re not as active, you’re not going to be able to eat like you usually do. You’ll have to watch what you eat to ensure you don’t pack on unnecessary weight, interfere with your body’s ability to patch itself up or to make sure you don’t feel sluggish and unhealthy. Again, you’ve already worked hard to get where you are (no matter where that might be)- don’t let it go to waste because you lacked discipline.

→ Train the parts of your body that aren’t injured
For example, if you’ve got an ankle injury (that’s not serious)  you could work on your upper body whereby you don’t need to put any strain on your ankle. If you’ve got a wrist injury, then you can work on legs. However, this advice is for the injuries that are confined to specific places. I wouldn’t suggest doing this if you’ve injured a major part of your body like your back because you’re going to need your back muscles to do a lot. I’d also like to take a moment to remind you that I’m not an expert in sports science/physiotherapy/medicine etc so all this is not to be your be all and end all advice. I’m merely just telling you my experiences in case you’re looking for someone to relate to. Ultimately, at the very least, stay active in some form or another. Don’t just lounge around all day (unless you really have to).

→ Take the opportunity to work on something you wouldn’t usually work on/do something you wouldn’t usually do
You probably have a bit more time on your hands when you’re injured because you’re not training as much. You find yourself in a state where you’re questioning, ‘what now’. I say do something you wouldn’t usually do. No, that doesn’t mean going on weekend benders and partying 24/7. I still strongly advise you to have a good night’s sleep every night and to maintain a healthy lifestyle. What I do suggest is, don’t sit around and wait until the day you can finally return to training. Read a good book. Catch up with people. Spend time with those around you. Keep yourself occupied to get your mind off your current struggle. When you keep busy, you’re not thinking about the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘shouldn’t I be doings..’.

→ Consider it a blessing in disguise
Sometimes, being injured was meant to happen to you. Maybe you started going too hard. Maybe you started losing perspective on something. Perhaps it was a sign that you needed to look at what you were doing- or something else for that matter- from a different perspective. Stay open minded and see what happens. Think outside the box.

Here were a  couple of tips from me, the so-called Queen of Injuries. Hopefully, in the coming months I’ll shake off that nickname for good and get going on doing what I really love to do.

And I hope you can do the same.

note: I’m no expert in this sort of thing. I don’t have any qualifications so please do not only utilise this advice. It’s just me sharing my experiences but this is not proper medical advice from a registered professional. 

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