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?
Look after yourself, looks like a really bad run for the injuries this year. Sucks to hear about the ribs and now the knee. May you heal fast like Wolverine.
Stay busy while you are healing, that will take your minds off things.
Even beasts need to rest!
haha, too right!
Really interesting read. I wonder if having your first injury, then training with it, influenced your successive injuries. My aim with injury management is to heal really well before training again, giving the body time to heal because to not do that just predisposes one to more injuries. Scar tissue is to be avoided. Built over time it leads to inflexibility. Not good news if you’re wanting to be around in the sport along time. I still will train but just not BJJ. Something else, not involving that injury.
Hi Gail, no doubt having a broken rib should have prompted me to rest completely. Lesson learnt. I am now fully recovered and training and happy.
I never push the injured body part and try to train what I can, it’s amazing how much you can improve in other areas!
I’m not a high level athlete like you, I spend most of my time teaching rather than training. But I am living 100% out of BJJ. So I can’t get injured.
I see myself as a teacher, rather than a competitor. But I enjoy competition as a chcalenge to keep on improving and as a great way to know myself better and make new friends.
I have a very high threshold of pain, so I don’t realize I’m injured until there’s something really bad. I started a sponsorship with a doctor specialized in martial artists. She was amazed of how could I life my life with this amount of problems. I was I pain constantly, but I was in the edge of being able to function and being in bed all day. I had a huge sciatic nerve injury, circulation problems in the legs, a broken tail bone and 9 vertebrae out of place. Now I’m much better, I followed her instructions and saw her once a week. But most importantly, and this would be my answer to your inquiry, I MODIFIED MY POSTURES, MY TRAINING (so I’m stronger in the weakened parts of my body, like the lower back), AND I AM LEARNING HOW TO LISTEN TO MY BODY.
The hardest is when my body is asking to rest and a light weight brown belt comes to visit. I don’t have the chance to roll with higher ranks that are my weight very often. But I know that training that day will cost me greatly the next week.
Rest is part of the training.
Love from Mexico my dear friend. I hope you get well soon. See you in January :3
MISS YOU! See you in Aus soon. You can shed more of your wisdom to me over beer 🙂
That sucks Liv, when I was off with my knee I rested too much……and ate and drank far too much (after being on a strict diet and training all the time) and now I am struggling to shift my weight……..so don’t do that :0)
Haha, when will I be seeing you again! It’s been too long! PS. Wine is ALWAYS a good choice!
Oh wow I swear you have read my mind! I can relate completely 100% I’m only 18 and a constantly getting introuble for over training and not recovering and resting injuries. And I know they are right and that I should listen but I just can’t and still sneak in training sessions they don’t know about haha
Rest is as important as training… in fact it’s a big part of training. Rest up and enjoy longevity in your chosen sport. Liv
What’s worrying is that you have so much of your identity wrapped up in a sport you’ve only done for 5 or so years.
As far as the injuries go, the problem clearly lies in your training methods. The fact you seem (not so) secretly proud of your injuries suggests you aren’t going to find a solution any time soon.
Thanks for worrying for me and my identity Doug, but at the moment they seem to be doing good.
Those pesky training methods are definitely to blame.
Thanks for your input, Liv 🙂
Hi, very interested to know if that hand splint is commercially available or did you have it made? My son just broke his 5th metacarpal and wants to get back into sport as quickly as possible after the surgery.
So sorry for a late reply. You would definitely need to get a splint made by a health professional. Hope it all went well and best wishes to your son. Liv
So sad to hear about your injuries it’s really frustrating. I had surgery on my right shoulder took almost 2 years off started making progress and tore tendon on my left shoulder now. it’s so frustrating. I have so many other injuries like yourself that I just push through but it kills me not to do what I love and I always feel like I’m missing out when I see my team mates growing, improving, competing and just having fun. So i can totally relate. Rest up do other things that are kind to your body and study the art while you give your body a rest. Hope you have a speedy recovery.
So sorry for a late reply! Injuries are so frustrating, but they are part of being an athlete. I’m all recovered now. Hope you are in one piece also. Liv
Very happy for your recovery and the achievements you’ve reached since then.
I’m very new to bjj. Have been doing it for only a month, but think already have a metacarpal fracture. Dont know how exactly it happened. I rolled and only after an hour felt a sharp pain in the 5th metacarpal. It’s been 4th day the pain is relatively mild, doesn’t better though. I can move all my fingers, however, when my hand gets squeezed at the end of training when we shake hands the pain exacerbates. Don’t want to go to docs, As I’m to scared to hear the answer, and not being able to do lifting or bjj. For now, I’m planning just to take a week off and resume.
Did you hand heal eventually, while you continued training or did you take weeks off mat?
Thanks in advance ,
Hi Eva, sorry for the late reply just saw this message. Hope your hand is ok. It is always better to visit a doctor or a physio as it’s impossible to diagnose or give you advise over messages.
All the best and hope you’re happy and healthy. Liv