Being sidelined by injury can be an incredibly frustrating time for athletes. Not being able to train and race, often with a mysterious onset and an uncertain recovery time, can lead to doubts and uncertainties. However, it is possible to break free from the injury-rehab cycle. In this article, we will explore five key steps that can help athletes overcome recurring injuries and move towards recovery and long-lasting results.
Step 1: Obtain a Reliable Diagnosis
To effectively address an injury, it is crucial to obtain a clear and reliable diagnosis. While it may be tempting to rely on internet searches or self-diagnosis, consulting a qualified healthcare professional is essential. In complex cases, seeking a second opinion may be necessary. Understanding the diagnosis is vital as it allows athletes to comprehend the underlying causes of their injury and make informed decisions regarding their recovery. Visualizing how the body is functioning, with the guidance of the right practitioner, can provide valuable insights.
Step 2: Evaluate the Bigger Picture
When dealing with an injury, it is important to consider the bigger picture. For instance, a calf strain may be a result of weak hamstrings, indicating an imbalance in the body. By evaluating the entire body, athletes can identify other weaknesses or imbalances that contribute to the injury. This comprehensive approach allows for a more holistic recovery plan, ensuring that the underlying causes are addressed and reducing the risk of recurring injuries.
Step 3: Establish a Support Network
Building a support network is essential for athletes during the rehabilitation process. In addition to healthcare practitioners, having a reliable support system can help athletes stay accountable, provide encouragement during setbacks, and offer objective perspectives. It is beneficial to have individuals in the support network who are not directly involved in training, as they can provide a welcome distraction and prevent excessive fixation on the injury.
Step 4: Develop an Action Plan
With a clear diagnosis and understanding of the injury, it is time to develop an action plan. While setting goals and milestones is important, it is equally vital to remain flexible, as the recovery journey is rarely linear. Learning from past mistakes and focusing on strengthening the body should be the primary objectives. Despite the limitations imposed by the injury, incorporating a basic movement screen and bodyweight strength testing can help identify weaknesses and create a foundation for a stronger body. The strength and conditioning aspect of the plan should be tailored to the individual athlete and integrated into their lifestyle to ensure long-lasting results.
Step 5: Embrace Change
To break the injury-rehab cycle, athletes must be open to making changes to their old habits and routines. Evaluating the training schedule, balancing training, strength and conditioning, rest, and recovery is crucial. Assessing nutrition and prioritizing improvement of weaknesses through strength and conditioning should be considered. By exploring alternatives and discussing with coaches, athletes can make necessary adjustments to their approach and optimize their recovery.
Step 6: Hold Yourself Accountable
Accountability is a fundamental component of a successful rehabilitation program. Merely receiving exercises and waiting for the next appointment may not provide adequate support and motivation. To make progress, athletes should track their progress, communicate regularly, and seek multiple touchpoints throughout the week with their healthcare professionals or coaches. This increased engagement and accountability foster a proactive approach to recovery.
Overcoming recurring injuries and breaking free from the injury-rehab cycle requires a strategic approach. By obtaining a reliable diagnosis, considering the bigger picture, building a support network, developing an action plan, embracing change, and holding oneself accountable, athletes can optimize their recovery and minimize the likelihood of future setbacks. By implementing these five key steps, athletes can regain control of their training, mitigate injuries, and ultimately enhance their performance.
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- Vincent, H. K., Brownstein, M. J. & Vincent, K. R. (2022). Injury Prevention, Safe Training Techniques, Rehabilitation, and Return to Sport in Trail Runners. _Arthroscopy, Sports Medicine, and Rehabilitation_, _4_(1), e151–e162.