Dealing With Injuries

So I nearly made it through week one of training….

Its amazing as an athlete how quickly you can go from on top of the world to lower than Barry White’s voice. And more often than not, the cause of this sudden drop will be injuries. Injuries suck, and the problem is they seem to have been accepted as part and parcel of our sport and I really don’t think they need to be. The problem for me now, at the age of 28, is that I’m constantly adapting my training and working around problems that I developed when I was much younger. I haven’t had a new injury in over 4 years, but I’ve missed an awful lot of training from recurrences of older injuries.

I think this is actually a common theme of most athlete I know of my age. The ones who are still in the sport will generally be competing at a decent level and so will be working within a good quality coaching setup. This means that their training volumes will be well managed, and they’ll probably be getting some sort of regular soft tissue work done, being proactive rather than reactive to injury. but the problems that these athletes have is that the damage has already been done.

“First do no harm…”

Part of the Hippocratic oath taken by doctors when they qualify in the profession refers to the way they should treat patients, and one of the over-riding themes is that a priority should be that no matter what the treatment options available, the aim should be that first, the doctor does no harm to the patient. Is this something that can be applied to coaching younger athletes?

Just because they can run 10 x 200m flat-out, should they?

Just because they can do bounding exercises in spikes, should they?

Just because they can squeeze out a 1 rep max in the squat, should they?

The problem with younger athletes is that usually they can handle these training loads at the time without showing up as a major problem. The issues caused by these things will just end up causing them problems much further down the line.

I know a very talented girl who made it to a major international championships, but ended up having to withdraw because of a stress fracture which manifested itself during warm-up. Upon scanning they found that she had multiple areas in the bone where stress fractures had been and healed and they all looked very old. She put it down to bounding exercises she’d done in spikes as a youngster almost a decade previous.

My Injuries

My major injuries which i deal with on a daily basis are my achilles and my lower back. My lower back was ruined by years of pole vaulting with poor technique and I still have to deal with the consequences to this day. In fact I’ll probably have to deal with the consequences the rest of my life.

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Forced hyper-extension of the lower spine anyone? How about some additional shearing of l4-l5 when psoas initiates the leg swing?

This week it was my lower back that flared up.

Six months of rehabilitation on my achilles, getting myself back to a position where I can run on it 3 times a week and my back decides to flare-up on my 5th day of winter training, and one of those previous 4 days was a rest day! If I don’t laugh about it, I’d probably cry.

Its not a major issue, I only tweaked it slightly, and having had to deal with it many times previously I have a pretty good system in place to get it right, but its just another constant reminder that my body cannot be trained as hard as my head and my heart want to.

Dealing with a lower back injury

I’m actually at a level now and in a place where I receive invaluable medical support from a really good team of physios, doctors and massage guys. I’ve not always had access to this so I had to develop a system to look after myself.

With lower back injuries its all about maintaining mobility and function of the hips in order to off-load the back. This means that I spend hours every week with a hockey ball in my glutes keeping them loose and functioning, with a shotputt in my abdomen releasing my hip flexors and and band around my hip creating the range that my is oh so important to off-load the spine.

IMG_0569
Electrically mediated muscle contractions, love it!

Once the muscle spasms kick in however the most importnat piece of kit I have is my Electronic Muscle Stimulator (EMS). I’ll cover this in a bit more detail in a future blog post, but for taking the muscles in my lower back out of spasm its amazing. A couple of hours of running current through my lower back and hip flexors and the initial panic is over, but there is still a couple of weeks of slow progressions, getting back to where I was, then the rest of my athletics career to be hyper sensitive about loading my spine in a flexed position to worry about. I can’t wait!

Injuries Suck!

Injuries do suck, and I hope you never have to deal with them, but if you do athletics you probably will unfortunately. What sucks more than getting them, is having to talk about them, there was a part of me that didn’t want to write this blog, it almost feels that through admission it becomes worse, but part of the aim of this was to be honest about what I’m actually going through. Maybe if we were 10 months down the line and I was a couple of weeks from the Commonwealth Games I might not be quite so honest and open, I’d be creating denial within my head that things were actually fine.

This is one of the reasons I don’t envy real top level athletes who have to do media appearances. Any hint of an injury, or the athlete not being fully fit and thats all they want to talk about. As an athlete what do you do in that situation? You never really want to admit that you’re crocked, partly for your own mental sanity but also because you don’t really want to give your competitors an edge. So what do you do? Basically you lie, you create a media front that is independent of the real you, is this one of the reasons why most media interviews with sports people are generally just the same regurgitated cliches? Because its near impossible to be open and honest in that situation?

Is it lying though? Or has the athlete actually constructed a false memory of perfect preparations for that major championships? If they truly believe that they have had perfect preparations that is surely going to help both their confidence and their performance.

I’ve heard it said that if you make it to the start line 100% fit, you already have a major advantage over 99% of your competitors. How does that stand if you’re not 100% but have convinced yourself that you are, I think thats the way it ends up for me most of the time. Anyway, I’m going to stop my philosophical rambling now, before it becomes even more evident that I have no idea what I’m talking about. Hopefully I’ll be more upbeat and have something better to report on next week.

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2 thoughts on “Dealing With Injuries

  1. I look forward to reading your thoughts and I agree. Injuries can be the biggest contributor to an athlete not achieving their potential in any sport but the problems always seem to come when people prioritise short-term success over long-term, compromises are made and it is the athlete who will ultimately suffer.

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