Recently, I had to get surgery on a torn labrum in my shoulder. My doctor told me recovery time was four to six weeks with a sling, followed by two to four months of physical therapy. That meant four months with no heavy lifting, and nine months without boxing (which especially stunk for me!)
Athletes dread injury. Especially the injuries that will have us sidelined for extended periods of time, such as sprains and tears, or at worst, injuries that require surgery. It can be a total headache and do a number on your physical and mental wellbeing.
The best way you can deal with an injury? Act like it's just another challenge in your athletic career. Devise a smart game plan and stick to it. Here are five tips to guide you on your epic injury comeback.
1. Kill Your Ego
When I found out the recovery time for my torn labrum, I felt defeated.
Immediately after my surgery, I knew I needed patience, and most importantly my ego needed to take a back seat. Athletes want to compete and most of all we want to win. That drive to win and be successful ultimately derives from our ego.
It's easy for us to want to play and train through the pain but we have to take a step back and allow our body to heal. You might not be scoring touchdowns or smacking home runs anytime soon, so you must take pride in your recovery.
"My mindset was that the rehab would replace my football season. That had better be your mindset, otherwise it's going to be a very difficult rehab," Eagles center Jason Kelce told PhiladelphiaEagles.com after returning from a torn ACL in 2012. "It was nine months of a lot of frustrating work, especially early on, and then a lot of gratifying results toward the end of it."
He went on to be Pro Football Focus's highest graded NFL center in 2013.
2. Even if You Think You Can, Don't
There have been plenty of times I've thought I could do something I probably shouldn't do with my injured shoulder. Each time I tried, I was quickly reminded of the reasons I shouldn't. The lack of mobility and pain was always there, and my timetable told me that it would be there. But I thought I was ready.
Many athletes will be able to recover faster than the standard timetable, but that has to come through patience and persistence with the tools and procedures we are given to recover. Nothing is gained if we do things that will hinder our progress. Hyper-competitive San Diego Chargers QB Philip Rivers told STACK that patience in rehab is difficult but essential.
In the midst of rehabbing a torn ACL, Rivers said, "The hardest thing is having the patience, and understanding that it's going to come. I feel like 'well I can bend it all the way, I can straighten it all the way, I can walk on the treadmill, I can do leg press, so why can't I go (all out)?' You've just got to understand that it takes time."
Rivers' patience allowed him to come back stronger than ever, and he led the league in touchdown passes and passer rating during the season following his injury.
3. Rest and Relax
Allowing the body to heal means two things: rest and relaxation. Athletes are hardwired to always be in "Go" mode. But when the injury bug strikes, one of the best things we can do is use that time to rest and relax. Some of my personal favorite ways to rest and relax my body is doing yoga (if my injuries allow), getting massages or visiting a float tank.
4. Think Long Term
Is anyone really going to be excited if you return to practice earlier than expected only to re-injure yourself within a couple of days? Nope! It might be a tough pill to swallow, but rushing to return from an injury is not something a true team player does. It's all about long-term health!
Healing your body properly will allow you to prevent similar injuries in the future. Isn't that the goal? Not only does that mean more time spent playing the sports you love in the long run, but it's also imperative to remember that past our playing days we have to live with this body of ours and we want it to function well and live a pain-free life.
5. Trust The Process
I live in Philadelphia. We know a little bit about trusting the process. After being told about my recovery time, I felt defeated. But in that same instant, I knew each day I'd do whatever was asked of me to recover as fast as possible.
"You have to be ready to attack every day," Carson Palmer told STACK while recovering from a torn ACL in 2014. "You have to be ready to be mad, and bored, and sick of doing the same thing every day. You just have to know that is what the situation is going to be, and get through it."
Do exactly what's asked of you and work at it every single day. You'll be back in no time! Trust the process, my friends.
Photo Credit: skynesher/iStock
- The Mental Side of Recovering From an Injury
- Rebuilding a Champion: Carson Palmer's Grueling ACL Rehab
- How Flotation Therapy Improves Recovery