This week I would like to discuss my own experience of injury, physiotherapy and rehabilitation in a three part blog post.
Rugby has played a massive role in my life since my first training session with the Enniskillen U8’s boys team. Fast forward 15 years and whilst the playing jersey’s still engulf me I am very fortunate to be capped for Ireland and working towards my second Six Nations Championship campaign. Anyone who has ever played sport will know that injuries, while hopefully infrequent, are often an unavoidable part of sport participation.
First "Proper" Injury
How it Happened
During the last Six Nations Championship I suffered a shoulder injury. We were training at the Institute of Sport in Blanchardstown. The elements were against us whilst we were playing a game of 10 aside unstructured rugby. These games are notoriously unpredictable and barbaric but I had managed to remain unscathed (my small framed body was never designed for such brutality!). I dived over the line to score a try, a defender was hanging onto me by the waist. The combined weight of the defender and myself forced my left shoulder into a nasty position as it was trapped underneath me. I heard a nasty “clunk”. Trying to push myself up from the floor I noticed my shoulder felt floppy and useless. A few weeks later after an MRI scan I discovered that I had sustained two labral tears in my shoulder.
The Physical and Emotional Impact of Injury
Over the years of playing rugby, I had picked up little niggles here and there, ankle sprains, dislocated fingers, quad strains to name a few, but I had always just played through them. Similarly, I played the remaining two games of the Six Nations “reasonably well” whilst carrying a heavily strapped up shoulder. I tried to ignore it and push through the pain and the shoulder did not thank me for it. A few weeks later, after an honest conversation with the team Physiotherapist, it was decided that I had to take time off rugby to get my butt in gear and rehab my shoulder properly.
I knew recovery may not follow a linear progression but I wasn’t prepared for the emotional turmoil that sustaining an injury can create. It can be demoralising, it is uncomfortable, and it is slow. There are frequent challenges to embracing this insecurity.
How much can I push myself?
How much is too much?
How much am I prepared to pay later, if I do more now?
If you have ever experienced an injury, then you know that the physical hurt you feel is only one very small part of the overall pain that you have to go through in the rehab process. The mental pain caused by your injury and the temporary or permanent loss of your sport can be far more devastating than the strained or torn ligaments, pulled muscles, or broken bones. I felt broken and stuck in a rut.
I recognise now that unless the emotional burden of sporting injury is directly addressed and "treated", your overall recovery will be slow and incomplete. I had to accept that I am a very RESTLESS REHABBER. Additionally, I struggled with feelings of isolation and low mood that came with being unable to participate in my sport. As a result of my own injury experiences, I now try my best to help my physiotherapy clients come to terms with their injuries in order to reduce the emotional burden.
After some reading into this I found that injured athletes may also experience:
I have learned that tenacity, grit, competitiveness and an ability to come back stronger from any obstacle are a prerequisite for elite athletes. Overcoming an injury has given me character, resilience, and a huge sense of achievement. You can be physically the best athlete in the world, but without the mental strength to overcome setbacks like an injury it means nothing. You have to want it more than anything.
To this day, I have learned how to manage my shoulder injury with a strict routine of shoulder rehab exercises. Working at FFS Gyms, I am very lucky to be surrounded by such inspirational coaches and athletes who keep me motivated and encouraged to continue my rehab work. With their support I continue to achieve personal bests in my gym work (something I thought would never happen after this injury). I have been training towards competing in the upcoming Six Nations Championship, which started February 2nd.
Find Out More
If you need advice, a physiotherapy assessment or feel your team/business could learn more about workplace ergonomics, contact Kathryn at email@example.com or visit www.ffs.ie/physiotherapy.
About the Author
Kathryn Dane is a Chartered Physiotherapist working with FFS Physiotherapy, a practice based on Leeson St Lower. Chartered Physiotherapists have specialist knowledge in the field of work-related injury management.
She also plays for the Ulster Senior Women’s Rugby team and Irish Senior Women’s rugby team. If you need advice or a physiotherapy assessment, contact Kathryn at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.ffs.ie/physiotherapy.
Email Kathryn at email@example.com
Find Kathryn on Instagram at @kaffydane