We all know a player who has been plagued by a long-term injury. That hamstring that just keeps tearing, or the hip that won’t heal. The shoulder that is constantly popping out with the slightest touch, or the ankle that is always sore. For teammates, it can become a running joke, but if this is you, a chronic injury can torment you morning, noon, and night, and take up every moment of your waking day. Researching ways to get it fixed, trying a new supplement or diet plan, rehab, and all the while trying to keep it together as more of the season slips by with every training session missed. Not to mention having to deal with the ‘How’s the injury?’, and ‘Are you still injured?’ comments.
I can honestly say that I feel your pain. Literally. I missed 3 seasons of my beloved hurling through an injury that was caused directly from doing too much off it. For anyone who has suffered through osteitis pubis, they know its not a pleasant injury. It is now a thing of the past, but it was not easy to break through to the other side. I had to identify the things that were keeping the injury ‘locked in’, and look outside the box of conventional thought. Being a GAA strength and conditioning coach, gives me a great opportunity to now help others get through the barrier of a chronic injury.
A chronic injury is not the same as a short-term strain, cut, or bruise. It has the potential to drive its host to madness, and will certainly encourage most to learn about the injured area in question in quite some depth! Every injury is different of course, which is why I am not going to discuss specific modalities of treatment or rehab methods here. However, there are some things that you must do if you want to get our of the chronic injury cycle.
Realize it is going to take time.
A chronic injury always has a history. It started at some time, and has evolved over time. It may have started with a nasty tear in a match, but was never allowed to heal properly for one reason or another. Probably due to your poor posture, imbalances, or getting back to play too soon. So realize that fixing a chronic injury is going to take time. It could be months. Trying to get back to play too soon will only put pressure on you to again and push the boundaries of the injury before its ready.
Snap out of the negative frame of mind
Your thoughts and your attitude to an injury does as much to keep it there as the actual tissue damage itself. When you have a chronic injury, it is easy to fall into the mentality that your injury is a unique thing that nobody can find the cure too and that you must now just soldier on and bear the load of constant pain. This is a mistake. You are not the only person who has had your type of injury, and there are people out there who can help you kick its ass!
Take stock of what hurts, and STOP doing them things!
How many people do you know who have a sore hamstring who constantly feel the need to go for sprinting sessions to ‘test it out’. Go back to point 1. This chronic injury will take time to heal, and will most likely require some movement retraining or postural retraining to get the pressure of the are in question. When you no longer need to think about ‘testing it out’ is when you are healed. Until then, stick to things that are well within your pain free range. ‘Testing it out’ only serves to strengthen the neural signals to that area that there is an injury there. If sitting all day makes your back worse, stop sitting all day. If putting your arm over your head hurts your shoulder ……yeah you’ve got it, stop putting your arm over your head! Just because you cant do a certain movement does not mean that you are totally relegated to doing middles rehab exercises all the time. There are always different ways that you can challenge yourself, and train hard despite injury. Identifying these can be a huge mental relief in dealing with chronic injury, but you should take care when selecting them in case they are actually doing more harm than good. Get expert advice on this,.
Take action. Reach out.
This is a big one and is closely related to all the points above. You need to take action, intervention style! Reach out to people who can help you. Literally break the cycle that you are currently in. Get out of your daily routine for a few days, and tell yourself that you are going to allow your body to heal. The mental relief that comes with taking the pressure off yourself to find the cure or get back playing in quicktime will help you get to where you want to be faster. There are an abundance of things that you can do when you are injured, some useful, and some not so. The important thing is that you have a definite plan of action, that is going to be properly coordinated, and have someone on your side who can take control of managing your injury and the training that you do. Someone who can guide your rehab process, identify the movements that you should do regularly, and the ones that you should avoid. The food you should eat, and the amount time times you should train/ rehab.
Keep the faith.
This is the most important. The human body is an amazing thing, and will do everything it can to heal itself if you give it the opportunity. Forcing the body to heal faster than it wants to can be disastrous. Have faith that when you take the right actions, the body will heal. Remember that there are other things outside of sports in your life, and spot the opportunities to expand yourself in ways that you may have not been able to if you were stuck into the thick of a heavy training schedule. Fine-tune your skills, read inspirational books, spend more time on your other hobbies, take up a new one, go on that summer holiday that you have never been able to take due to the championship, spend more time with your family and friends, and know that you will return from this injury a stronger person in more ways than one.
This Article is by ACLAÍ Owner, Ainle Ó Cairealláin MSc CSCS. Ainle is strength and conditioning coach for the Cork Senior Football team, has worked with Adelaide Crows Football Club in Australia, lectured in the University of Limerick PE and Sports Science Department, contributed to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, and also works as a tutor with Strength and Conditioning Institute, Setanta College.
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