Recovering from Injury
Net 1… Face 0…
If you play sports or enjoy an athletic hobby, it’s simply a matter of time before you are faced with an injury. It’s an inevitability of living an active lifestyle. It’s not something to fear or dread. But when it happens, if you don’t have a game plan and the right attitude, it can impact you not just physically but mentally.
This past November, I had my first experience with an injury that threatened to sideline me from the sport I love, alpine ski racing. The day was a beautiful cold day in Colorado. My team and I were getting some much needed time on the Copper Mountain speed track. It was great to put on the long boards and feel that rush of adrenaline and speed you get running SuperG. The training day was going well, with each run I took, I was getting faster and more confident. Then on the last run of the day coming into the last pitch, I lost my edge and went into the netting on the side of the course at 45-50mph.
Things happened so quickly. One moment I was on my feet, feeling great about the run. The next, I knew I was down. I had literally a split second to look up and see the net rushing towards me. I tried to put my hands up over my face. Then I remember feeling the bite and scrape of the net on my lip and chin.
After it happened, I was tangled up in the net and in shock. I remember looking down and seeing blood dripping onto the pristine white snow besides me at an alarming rate. I looked up and there was my coach Kris. He was so calm when he spoke and that he helped me relax. He handed be a big snowball to put on my lip to slow the bleeding and swelling. Then with the help of the US Ski Team doctors on the hill that morning he got me untangled and checked out.
The good news is, with the exception of my lip and chin and some bruising on my back, hip and shoulder, I had no other injuries. The bad news, my lip was dangling and there was a 1 ½ inch gash on my chin. The doctors told me we needed to go to the clinic and that I was going to need a “few stitches.”
Great! All at once a million thoughts were flying through my mind. I had a ski race the next day. Ouch! Getting stitches is my least favorite thing. Can they just put me to sleep? Yikes! Did I cut a nerve? Would I be able to smile again?
Just over an hour later, I was sitting in the clinic with 20 stitches in my face. The doctor reassured me that I hadn’t cut any nerves and that my smile would be great. He gave me tips for minimizing the new scar on my chin that I will carry with me for the rest of my life but assured me it would be minimal. I was numb but relieved. Two out of my top three concerns were gone. Now it was time to start focusing on my recovery.
So, many athletes just don’t make the right choices when they are injured. Cassie Dionne a coach in her article “7 Reasons Your Injury Is Not Getting Any Better” shares the key reasons that sideline athletes after injury. Cassie says that injuries “can be physically and mentally frustrating, and usually take longer to heal than you are willing to give them.” I definitely agree. Here are a few of the things I did during my recovery that apply to most any injury situation.
First, I didn’t stop working out. Yes, I was sore and my face was swollen and bruised. For the first week, I did adjust my workout to do more stretching and cardio. But my adjustments were minimal and staying active helped me start to feel better sooner. Colleen Greene, wellness coordinator at the University of Michigan agrees saying “Some people think they should rest and not move after injury. Doing that can actually be worse because, depending upon the amount of time one does not move the appendage, muscles begin to atrophy.” In fact, I worked out the afternoon after my injury. Just stretching and moving my body gave me confidence and assurance that I was going to be ok.
Second, a key concern with my injury was nutrition. When you have 20 stitches in your face with ½ of them on the inside, you aren’t motivated to want to eat something. Most things wouldn’t even fit through my mouth. So, I turned to making shakes and smoothies. I found recipes that allowed me to pack everything I needed into them. The cold smoothies also really felt good on my swollen and bruised face. I tried to make sure I was including high amounts of Protein, Omega 3 fats, Vitamins and Calcium in my smoothies to help reduce swelling, maintain the right amount of calories, and promote healing. I’ve included a great smoothie recipe from US Ski Team Chef Megan Chacosky, MS, RD below. It was the base recipe I followed for the next week until my mouth healed enough to go back to solid foods.
Protein Packed Banana and Spinach Smoothie
1 Scoop Vanilla Protein Powder
1 Handful Spinach
½ Cup Vanilla Greek Yogurt
1 Cup Frozen Berries
1 Cup Liquid (Milk, OJ, Almond Milk)
1 Tablespoon Nut Butter (Almond or Peanut)
***Add all ingredients into the blender and mix until the desired consistency.
Third, is having the right attitude. I love the quote “Attitude is Everything.” It is so true. When you are an athlete it’s just not enough to know you are going to get better. You have to WANT to get better. You need to really listen… To your body, your coaches, your doctors. You need to be committed to getting better. To doing what others tell you to do, to push yourself to do more, to eat healthy, and get the right amount of sleep. If you don’t take time to put in the work now you risk not getting better quickly and even re-injury. People who take an active role in their recovery and are committed not only recover but often come back stronger than before the injury occurred.
I’m glad I was proactive and committed to a quick recovery. I’m happy I stayed active and ate the right foods in the right amount. I’m glad I got a good night sleep and kept a positive attitude after one roller coaster of a day. The next morning after my crash and injury, I woke up and after talking to my coaches decided to race. My third fear post injury disappeared the moment I crossed the finish line later that day. Now, 10 days later, my stitches are out, my scar is already fading, and I’m recovered and continuing on with my ski season confident that I now know that I can push through with the right attitude and have the tools to get and keep myself healthy and competing at a high level.