Inevitably as an athlete, particularly if you are a martial artist or combat sport athlete, you will incur injuries.
Hematomas’, strained muscles, torn ligaments and tendons, and even broken bones are typical of the injuries that we encounter.
Given time and correct treatment the majority of these injuries repair, and cause little, if any, further problems.
Most of us experienced athletes understand what treatment is required for these injuries and we either put ourselves through the necessary regime or consult a health professional for the more severe injuries.
The I.C.E. (Ice, Compression and Elevation) protocol is our standard treatment, at first, followed by resting, together with light stretching over a period of about 3 weeks. This protocol is successful for the majority of muscle and ligament strains, and hematomas that we get in martial arts training.
When we get a more severe ligament, tendon or muscle tear, or a bone fracture, the injury will require a longer time and will usually require the assistance of a professional.
However, there is one crucial factor which, as athletes, many of us struggle with; the necessity for patience and rest to enable the recovery process to complete its work.
However, many times we ignore our own advice and adopt an attitude that we’ll train through the injury and the body will adapt, and sometimes we get away with it.
Many of us, who love our martial arts training, find it extremely difficult to give it up for a few days let alone 3 weeks, but if we want to give ourselves the best chance of recovery we have to.
And while taking some time out to heal might seem, to most of us, a completely understandable undertaking, hardly requiring any further mention, many of us, the writer included, totally ignore advice and continue to train, exacerbating an already badly compromised physiology.
While in my 37 years of martial arts training I have incurred many injuries and flouted this requirement for rest and patience and got away with it, recently I severely damaged a shoulder that did not respond so quickly to recovery.
Following surgery I was back weight training and grappling on the mat within 4 weeks, as usual, ignoring the advice that I was given by my surgeon because previous experience had demonstrated that I could push myself a little harder than was prescribed.
Everything appeared to be under control, as I was building everything up slowly.
Unfortunately, my unwillingness to take time out to allow the process to fully heal the shoulder ultimately cost me.
After a week of particularly aggressive MMA grappling and a “black swan” event (an extremely violent 6.8 earthquake that tore my home city apart)in which I stressed the ligaments and muscles beyond what they could withstand, in their weakened state, my shoulder and bicep tendon became so badly damaged I could hardly lift my arm under its own power.
This was devastating, both physically and mentally as I just could not perform any form of upper body BJJ, MMA grappling, or weight training movement. In addition it was my left arm and so I was unable to execute a Jab or left hook, or hold pads for Muay Thai training.
As an instructor and fully active BJJ, MMA and Muay Thai practitioner I was forced to come to the realization that if I did not rest and take time out I might never be able to train in martial arts again. One doctor even said that, given my age, perhaps I should consider giving it away and going onto other things. Fortunately he was not my usual physician and I had little time for such opinions that are based on average, usually quite senescent, people.
However, I was also aware that I was not a good patient and I had better get someone to guide me in the recovery and caution me on being too aggressive.
I therefore consulted my physiotherapist who I had known for over 20 years and he told me that, yes, it was repairable but it was going to take time; a lot of time, over 6 months of careful work .
It was tough, watching my upper body atrophy and my weight drop by 5 kgs (that was lost muscle, as I don’t have a lot of body fat) and watching my students train and not being able to hit pads or grapple with them.
I was doing negative curls with 2.5 kg dumbbells and performing negative, lateral raises with only my own arm weight.
During this time I hit my legs, lower back and abdominals really hard which gave me some satisfaction.
Mentally it was tough as I had deep doubts about ever being able to grapple, fight or lift weights at the level that I was used to.
However, finally after 3 months I was starting to lift heavier weights and doing light, controlled BJJ and MMA grappling. Now, 5 months later, I am coming back to full strength, grappling, and working the Muay Thai pads again. My Jab is almost back fully and my upper body musculature returning.
This has been a severe lesson to me and one that I am still coming to terms with as I must continue to restrain myself and just let the healing process complete itself, otherwise I will be right back where I started.
I felt that I must write this as a reminder to myself and also a lesson to my students when they incur an injury.
I know that many of us dedicated athletes continually struggle with the healing process and find it hard to just rest and give ourselves a chance to recover.
Many times all we have to do is give an injury time and it will come right, our bodies have an incredible capacity to heal they just need time and rest.
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