I have so far considered myself pretty lucky injury wise as an athlete. I’ve pretty much abused my body since I was 7 years old. On average, I spent 25 hours a week training at a high level sport for the last 24 years. Yep, you read it right… 24 years! When I put that in context that’s around 31,200 hours of intense training, without so much as a month off.
I’ve had my fair share of niggles along the way – ranging from tendinopathies, stress fractures, muscle tears, labral tears and overuse injuries. Yet I have somehow avoided major injuries, where I needed more than 2-3 weeks off complete training. Considering how much I train, I definitely beat the odds.
In my 5.5 years as a jiu jitsu fighter, most of my injuries happened this year and particularly this month. And I have taken it pretty hard. I’ve realised that I am not very good at dealing with it at all.
I broke my hand at the start of the year, but it is still not completely healed and causes me a lot of pain to the point I’ve had to change my grip game quite a bit.
After the World Championships, my shoulder gradually started to play up, but within a week it couldn’t even handle rolling with the lighter girls. I tried drilling for a week, but to no avail. I couldn’t sleep pain free, do my hair, take my bra off, let alone train. Luckily, I got treated by one of my colleagues and took some time off training to concentrate on rehab.
I eased back to rolling and clearly recall driving to the gym and telling Lachie how happy I was to be pain free for the first time in months – my hand was slightly better and I could do nearly all positions despite my shoulder still giving me a bit of trouble.
That night I broke my rib. I jumped guard to finish a guillotine and got accidentally slammed. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more extreme pain as it happened. That night I couldn’t sleep, roll over, sneeze or take deep breaths. Painkillers did nothing to ease my discomfort and I wondered if I would ever recover. It definitely made me have more empathy for my football player patients, who commonly injure or fracture their ribs.
Due to the fact that I am stubborn and probably a bit stupid, I only had a few days off and then told myself that I can do top game at training. I started drilling and specific training starting from on top and finishing as soon as I passed or got swept. I got so excited about getting better at my top game and problem solving every little detail of my game, that I completely ignored the increase in pain after each training session.
On Saturday whilst training with the advanced girls, I could only do top game yet again. As I went to knee cut, I heard my knee pop loudly. I knew I tore my medial collateral ligament straight away. So I rested for 5 minutes and tried to convince my brain that I’m ok. I modified my game even more so that I didn’t torque my knee at all and continued rolling.
I have finally come to one conclusion. I AM NOT VERY BRIGHT. Not at all. Not even one bit. I am lying here with a healing fracture in my hand, a bad shoulder, labral tears in my hips, a broken rib, a torn MCL of the knee and a cold. And all I can think about is what I can train this week. That is just not normal. If I were my patient, I would slap me in the face. Hard.
For those of you who don’t know me – I am a physiotherapist. I diagnose, treat and manage athletes from recreational to Olympic level. I am very strict with their recovery, return to training and competition, and expect them to follow my instructions to the t. I trust my knowledge and skill. So why am I so appallingly bad when it comes to looking after myself?
Well, I have come to realise, I am petrified of failure. Not training means not improving and I hate the idea of not getting better every day. Even though I know that I can learn just as much from watching videos and observing others roll at training AND give my body a well deserved rest, I cannot seem to put money where my mouth is.
I am also addicted to endorphins and struggle to feel as good about myself without exercise. It has gotten to the point that I feel guilty if I ‘only’ train once a day instead of twice whilst working full time. Alarm bells are ringing, right?
Exercise and BJJ is such a big part of my identity that I fear I won’t know who I am without it. Which is silly, because I know exactly who I am with or without sport in my life.
It is finally time for me to grow up and stop kidding myself. I need the time out to heal physically and get better mentally. I know I will recover and I will actually improve my BJJ. I have no major competitions planned in the next couple of months, so it doesn’t interrupt my season in any way. I can actually take my time rehabbing, getting stronger and catching up with family and friends. I am going to enjoy this time, instead of wallowing in my pity and I’ll come out a million times better on the other side.
So apart from eating ALL the cake (I’m already very good at that), I’m interested to know how you deal with injuries that require time out from sport, work or family life?