4 Things I’ve Learned the Hard Way From Coping with a Sports Injury for a Year

Originally published at the GoodMenProject.com.

Ever since I know myself I’d been a physical person. Even though I wasn’t fit for the most part of my life, in the last few years I can hardly point out a month where I was completely inactive. For me, it was somewhat late when I met the world of martial arts, through which I’d met Weightlifting and CrossFit.

I fell hard, just as hard as I went in the daily WOD’s (Workout of the Day) and weightlifting sessions. The camaraderie and group effort found in these rigorous HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) sessions were just the thing I was looking for and couldn’t find in regular gyms. This is how I wanted to move. This is how I wanted to roll.

I never thought, however, that something that I’d previously disdained as a kid—fitness—could actually hurt me back. I assume it was some kind of over-compensation, meaning that I was so used to doing little physically, that I felt I had to make up for it by pushing hard in every workout. Thoughts like “no excuses” and “man up!” were commonplace for me.

There’s this old IDF (Israeli Military) saying here in Israel – “These instructions were written in blood”. Do or don’t – but you know what’s coming for you if you don’t. Because people have already traveled down that road before, and some of them have had to pay hard for their undoing.

Two and a half years into my sport, I tried ramping up my fitness with competitive training. And that’s the point I had realized I knew so little about myself as an athlete and on the human body as a whole. With a gradual breakdown in my abilities and increasing back pain, I’d found two discs had bulged between my vertebras: the one found between L4-L5 and another between L5-S1. Major pain ensued.

But I can’t say I’m not guilty of not trying to prevent this, there were more than a few things I could have done better in managing this injury. But eventually, every experience in life is beneficial. Admittedly, this one favored my physiotherapist the most, but I definitely have a few hard-earned lessons that I can now share. Here’s what I can tell you about managing and preventing sports injuries:

1. Invest Time in Mobilizing your Joints

The number one key to preventing sports injuries is to mobilize. That means you need to get on that damn foam roller and stretch routinely after you work out. I know, it’s awful to hear that again. But this advice is worth gold—doing so routinely is a smart investment, even in monetary terms—as you’ll be saving a lot of cash by not having to foot the bill at some Physio’s clinic.

Looking back, the juggling of both school and work left me with very little time to stretch and mobilize after workouts. I was only concerned about getting my pump and hitting the prescribed sets, reps and WODs and not really on recovering as an athlete should. Less hard training, more recovering. Make sure your recovery is on par with your training and even exceeds it.

2. Injured? Keep Moving – Somehow

Unless you have a solid understanding and professional counsel on what you should or shouldn’t do—do your best to keep active. It’s commonplace to finish treating one injury, and eventually ending up with another just a month after.

This happens because inactivity can cause muscles and tendons to weaken due to lack of use, thereby exposing us in a certain spot that might have been fine before. Combine this with an explosive return to fitness and you have a recipe for yet another injury.

Keeping active is also vital for your psyche. You can’t just back out from something you’ve been doing for years on end. Even walking or casually lifting dumbells at home is way better than staying in bed eating pizzas.

3. Get on the Attack

It’s time to get aggressive. And this time not in your workout. From the moment that you realize you are indeed injured and some parts are beginning to clink, you should go into attack mode and just get aggressive with treating that injury, before it gets worse and ends up being far more debilitating.

Get a proper diagnosis: it could be an X-Ray, CT or MRI. From there, begin the actual treatment – keep in mind that for the most part doctors will not prescribe you with actual physiotherapy exercises that in most mild cases are needed to restore function. This means you’d have to go straight to the source and find a specialist.

When choosing a physiotherapist—find the one who’s the most transparent, and is willing to actually share the process of your treatment and is also willing to tell you when he/she doesn’t know how to proceed. And remember – the most economic choice, might not be the most economic if you end up injured a year from now with ongoing visits.

And finally,f you require surgery, then by all means, pursue it! Don’t wait, don’t let lethargy and depression rule you.

When working with whichever specialist – commit to whatever corrective exercise you are prescribed. These meetings are now a part of your workout routine and will take precedence over actual gym time until you correct the source of your injury.

In my case, I thought I knew better—I never thought I could have a back injury because I believed I was strong, and actually never had trouble in this area before. This made me to get a proper CT scan 4 months into the actual injury, when I could have done so before, while better helping my Physiotherapist direct the treatment to a proper place.

4. Embrace the Situation

Well, you’re injured. It sucks, you’re in pain. And it might look like it’s the end of the world for you — but it ain’t. People get injured daily doing all sorts of activities, and sometimes by just doing nothing sitting in their office on their way-too-comfy chair.

Trying to move past the injury, without getting proper treatment or without getting to the root problem, which initially caused the dysfunction is what will stop your progress dead in its tracks. Accept you’re in trouble, and make effort and get aggressive to pull yourself out of that dark pit that a sports injury can be. Getting into denial about it is probably the worst thing you could do.

See you back in the gym, eh?

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