For anyone who exercises regularly, trains for a sport, or even gets up off the sofa too fast, given enough time, too much effort, bad form, and too little rest and recovery, you may get injured. Most injuries result from overuse, from ignoring messages your body is giving you, and from doing too much too soon. Injuries are often very preventable. More activity or exercise may not be better.
Every year more than 3.7 million Americans visit the Emergency Room (ER) to treat athletic related injuries. Another 3.5 million people receive outpatient care for their aches, pains, strains, breaks and tears. AND 28% of adults miss at least one day a year from work due to sports injuries.
In the first of two articles about injury and injury recovery, we speak with Atlas Fitness team experts about injury response and the psychology of recovery.
Eric Casper, the Endurance Sport Coach for Atlas Fitness, tells his personal injury story:
I had bad form and biomechanical problems as a swimmer, in particular with my left shoulder. I allowed my injury to progress until I was always in moderate, and progressively worsening pain. For a long time I didn’t acknowledge to myself that I had an injury at all. I didn’t take the time to consider what I was consistently doing to contribute to my pain. Finally, after not being able to sleep on my left side for over a year because of pain, and AFTER one final 24-hour adventure race, I had surgery on the AC joint in my shoulder. This is the place where all the critical elements of shoulder function come together in the shoulder. I was fortunate this was an easy repair. I was out of work for a week and away from training for 3-4 months.
Eric’s experience is an example of what Tim Bruffy, owner of Atlas Fitness, sees a lot with athletes he works with, and even for himself, in his recovery from a severe hamstring tear. “People wait too long to get checked out and let what may be a small injury become a major problem” says Tim.
“Most athletes participate in their chosen sport or activity for their own personal satisfaction. It’s not worth a lifetime of chronic pain to finish one more race,” Eric explained. “If you are an Olympic athlete, that’s a completely different consideration. Most of the rest of us will have opportunities to compete in the future, if we take 3-4 months off now.”
Diana Furrow, a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC), has learned that, “for many athletes, an injury is a loss. Many with injuries go through a grieving process that has many of the same steps that people go through when diagnosed with a terminal illness. The first step is denial. That is a way of coping with a problem, then anger, and depression. People need to accept that there is a process, and time, that must be worked through to be able to get the body to properly heal.”
“The most important key after an injury is to build a plan for your healing and recovery with your doctor, physical therapist and support team: your coaches, trainers, family and friends,” Diana added. “You need to understand what the recovery process is for your injury and set a path with incremental goals and steps, and follow that plan. Where possible find an alternate set of activities or exercise that won’t aggravate your injury. Maybe you need a friend to be a cheerleader for you. Create a plan and stick with it.”
In Part 2 of this series we will discuss medical treatment and therapy in the injury and recovery process with Dr. Christopher Steacy of Sport & Spine Rehab.