Injuries aren’t fun to deal with, but chances are that everyone will have to endure them at one time or another. It doesn’t matter if it’s the result of a traffic accident or sustained in the gym – injuries can be physically debilitating and mentally unsettling. Depending on the severity and treatment, it can even lead to psychological disorders, depression being the most common. Athletes who get injured are particularly prone to anxiety as they eagerly await their returns to playing, and this can sometimes derail the recover process, which must be handled with delicate care.
Even the layman needs to understand that something as seemingly minor as a pulled muscle can escalate into far more serious injuries if he doesn’t take proper care of it. Don’t sacrifice short-term absence from the gym for long-term injury, especially when it comes to joint-related injuries. It’s imperative that you know the difference between ‘powering through the burn’ and working out while hurt. The former is a vital part of weight loss and discipline-building, while the latter is ill-advised and foolish.
About three to four years ago, Sania Mirza suffered a knee injury at the US Open that kept her out of action for almost a year. It took her several months after returning to competitive play to find the touch and form that make her so dangerous – this is down to basic anatomy and mechanics. Joints are prone to stress from two sides, so when one is injured, it must recover fully to handle pressure from both the bones it supports. For example, damage to the structure of the knee requires recovery to the point where it can bear the weight of the femur, while also supporting the free movement of the tibia.
Knee injuries are particularly annoying to deal with, because the structure of the joint is rather complex, on top of its status as the body’s primary load-bearing joint. Ligaments and tendons in the knee require sensitive, case-specific treatment. A knowledgeable, experienced doctor can facilitate recovery, but the process hinges on the patience of the injured person. And because knee injuries are also susceptible to recurrence, after-care becomes a long-term (sometimes lifelong) component.
No matter what your injury, chances are you can recover from it. The key is to go about things the right way, by analysing the big picture, starting from the cause and ending with long-term recovery. Of course, the first step in assessing any injury is seeking professional advice. And no, your gym trainer does not count. Visit a medical professional, preferably one with extensive experience in dealing with the injured part of your body. Qualified, experienced physiotherapists can often diagnose things like poor form and strains, but it’s always better to see a fully licensed doctor either way.
Another thing you need to do is figure out what went wrong. Unless it’s blatantly obvious why you got hurt, such as a fractured leg following a motorcycle accident, it’s important to get the root cause of the injury, especially if you want to prevent a recurrence. Were you fatigued? Did you employ poor form or posture? Was it just bad luck? Physiotherapists often do a good job of answering these questions. Once you have the answers, work under supervision on a rehabilitation program suited to your personal needs.
While working back from an injury, it’s absolutely vital that you feed your body with the right foods. Even if you’re on bed rest while your fracture heals, your body needs nutrition. Now is not the time to diet, or to go after late-night shawarmas and fried chicken breakfasts. Fuel your body with a nutrient-packed diet, and ensure that you are adequately hydrated 24 hours a day. These are vital to any sort of recovery process. Certain supplements may help different types of injuries, but you should always check with your doctor and physiotherapist before adding any to your regimen. Above all, stay away from alcohol, sugar and refined foods.
Once you have your recovery plan, stick to it. When you finally are cleared for a return to action, whether that’s on the field or in the gym, take it easy. You can’t pick up where you left off unless you want to head right back to the treatment table, so swallow your pride and start fresh from day one. Remember to attend any follow-up visits or assessments, and do everything possible to prevent yourself from falling down the same hole again.