Training Through Injury — When is it Time to Stop
With the WFTDA championships this weekend, it seems like a good time to talk about injuries—when is the time to play through them and when is it time to rest? There comes a time in every athlete’s career when they to make the tough choice between training and resting. Athletes push their bodies to the absolute limit to achieve their goals and dreams. It's inevitable that impact or overuse injuries will occur. Knowing when to stop is hard. Playing through the pain can put you at risk for a more serious or debilitating injury. The best thing to remember is that you are playing a game. Unless you are a professional or Olympic athlete, your sport is for you. You need to evaluate if a long term injury is worth the risk of time off work and effecting your life outside of your sport.
Seek a Healthcare Professional
Athletes at every level are inherently competitive and driven. This drive makes it difficult to choose to rest and recover. For athletes involved in team sports, fear of losing a roster spot and playtime keep athletes from taking care of themselves. There first inclination is to push through the pain, keep building, and perform. This why you need to see a healthcare professional for advice. Never trust your self or Dr. Google for a diagnosis. We are the worst diagnostician when it comes to our bodies.
When in Doubt Rest
If you are training and you hurt yourself, stop and rest. The endorphins from working out can mask your pain. You may have just tweaked something or you may have a more serious injury. There is no harm in resting for 5 min to see if your pain gets worse or decreases. If your pain continues or gets worse it’s time to wrap it up for a day and reassess tomorrow. Especially if you play a contact sport. Playing through pain often leads to making a small injury a lot worse. If you are at the gym you maybe able to work another muscle group. For example if your shoulder hurts, transition to a bike where your shoulder will be stabilized.
Assessing Your Season
The most crucial time for your performance is at the end of a season. Of course you should be training to peak for your season. If you are injured earlier in your season it’s a good time to take a break and focus on strength training. You don't want an ankle sprain to become a spiral tib fib fracture and take you out for the duration of the season.
If it’s a preseason game or even mid season game you may want to assess how your team can perform without you, or if that particular game may affect your standings. If it's an easier win or game that won't effect your rankings why risk it? This may be the case for even some tournament games. Take a good look at the situation before you risk a long term injury.
Protect yourself for post season, this is where performance matters. The end of the season is where athletes often accumulate the most injuries. After a long season of training the body can become fatigued and more prone to injury. Make sure you’re taking rest days and detraining for peak performance. If you are injured during tournament season this may be the time to risk it. Make sure your coaches know so they can evaluate your performance and see if your injury is affecting play.
One injury you should never play through is a concussion. When mismanaged, concussions can have devastating consequences and can lead to Post-concussion syndrome. It’s usually not the first concussion that takes an athlete out. It’s the second hit after your initial concussion that often has a lasting effect. You don't even need to hit your head to get a concussion. Symptoms from concussions can be vague: haziness, groggy, memory problems and just not feeling yourself. Other symptoms are more obvious like headaches, nausea and vomiting. If you think you have a concussion stop training and see a doctor immediately. You should follow your medical provider's recommendation for return to play. Before you return to any activity you must be symptom free for 24hrs. Once you return to normal everyday activities and are symptom-free you can begin light exercise for 10-15 minutes. If you exhibit any symptoms, stop and try again in another 24 hours. The CDC recommends a 5-step return to play policy. I highly recommend acupuncture as part of your recovery from a concussion. It can reduce many symptoms pretty rapidly. I also recommend high doses of essential fatty acids.
In the paleo world MEAT is the new RICE. The old Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation is being replaced with Movement, Exercise, Analgesic, and Treatment. RICE is designed to reduce inflammation and limit the blood supply to the injury. Inflammation is the body's response to an injury. The blood flow brings vital cells to aid in the recovery of an injury. If you are in an acute injury stage and want to play through the pain you may want to Ice to numb the pain so you can get back out there.
Meat is designed to keep your blood moving to assist in a rapid injury recovery.
Movement: Keep an injury moving. Not vigorously, but don't immobilize unless instructed by a doctor. Work through your range of motion daily. This will help blood circulation bring new blood with healthy cells for tissue recovery and work out the old blood.
Exercise: Exercise will help with blood flow so you can keep circulating healthy blood pumping through the energy.
Analgesic: Pain relief can assist in helping you continue to move and feel more comfortable. Anti inflammatories reduce blood flow which can stunt recovery.
Treatment: Treating an injury can be done many ways. I of course recommend acupuncture. Acupuncture with e-stem has been proven to increase ATP to cells to assist in regrowth, reduce inflammation, and decrease pain. I also recommend chiropractic care and physical therapy.
I recommend San Qi 17 by Seven Forest as an herbal supplement for reducing pain and assisting healing. The herbs in the formula help reduce pain, increase blood flow and mend soft tissue and bone. You can order it from Amazon or if you live in Portland Or you can pick it up at ITM.
Topically, I recommend the Quali Patch. I used to recommend the Yunnan Bai Yao patch but the company has changed the formula and it seems to cause rashes in some patients. I carry these in my office, but you can also pick them up from Golden Cabinet Herbs in Portland Or.
CBD oil is great internally and externally. Cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive component of the marijuana plant. It has excellent pain relieving and anti-anxiety effects. Luckily it has been deregulated and you can order it through the mail or at a store that carries it. I don’t have a brand to recommend right now as I live in a state where I can grow or purchase it in bulk and make the oil myself.