Everything is going great with your training until out of nowhere it hits you. An injury is the worst! What is the best way to get it back to normal? Whether it’s a joint ache, a strain, a sprain, or a fracture, should you ice it??
The quick answer is, NO! Icing may help numb the injury but it actually may slow down the healing process. After you get the necessary evaluation by your doctor, first thing on your to do list is figure out how to train around the pain. Not many people are aware of this but the RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) is no longer recommended. PEACE & LOVE is one of the many new acronym based guidelines. PEACE is for the first 3 days suggesting to: Protect, Elevate, Avoid Anti-Inflammatory, Compression, Educate yourself about active recovery methods. and LOVE is after the 3 day phase suggesting to Load, have Optimism because, yes, your stress level impacts how quickly you recover, Vascularization or getting the heart rate up will get the necessary blood flowing to the injury to speed recovery, and Exercise using pain as your guide. IF IT HURTS DON’T DO IT!
Let me dive in a little deeper and target some specific injuries and guidelines to keep training for a faster more efficient recovery.
Physical Therapy is a necessary option for any fractures/surgery and some nasty sprains, as baseline mobility and strength needs to be restored. Strength training needs to continue alongside physical therapy for the healthy remainder of the body. Anytime an athlete is injured, physical therapy needs to be viewed as extra work, alongside regular strength training to get back to normal and reduce the risk of continued injury to the area. Did you know the most common predictor of a future injury is a previous injury?? The good news is, often, strength training volume can be reduced but never eliminated. Also, the athlete should have more time while avoiding practices and games. Strains as well as joint aches may or may not require physical therapy.
Strength training guidelines if you are an injured athlete.
If it hurts, don’t do it. While I know most of us are tough enough to fight through a little of that pain while training, the problem with that is you are likely making the condition worse. Now is the time to be super sensitive and avoid any movement that brings out the slightest bit of discomfort to let the injury heal.
Slow down the movement, and make It more controlled. Eliminate jumps or throws depending on where the injury is. Often with a lower body injury, an athlete can do medicine ball throws without any pain and vice versa.
When a slower more controlled movement is too easy, make it challenging by limiting the points of contact with the stable surface (often the ground.) Example: instead of a 2 leg squat, do a single leg squat.
Change the location of the external load. For example instead of squatting with a barbell when there is an upper extremity injury, you can change the load location and throw a weight vest.
Just because 1 limb is hurt does not mean you should stop training the other limb. (BUT THEN I’LL BECOME LOPSIDED!?) It’s okay, your injured limb will catch up once healed. Anyone who has worn a cast understands this concept. Also, think about how often you carry your groceries or any bag with your strong arm. You’ll be fine I promise.
Focus on mobilizing around the injury without any sensations of pain. Foam rolling around the injury for example.
The hardest injuries to work around are in the core/lower back. In general our core is used for everything to stabilize our movement. This is why it’s so important for sports performance. Since your core is responsible for assisting your breathing. These injuries are the most limiting however the good news is they generally heal quicker then a sprain or a fracture.
Lastly, proper recovery will always be an essential part of your training.
Believe it or not your body actually burns more calories at rest when injured compared to if you were healthy. However, you will likely be less active than you were when you were healthy. All this means is you will need to make sure you get adequate nutrients to ensure a speedy recovery. It’s likely best to error on the side of gaining a little mass in order to ensure a speedy and full recovery before returning to sport. Sleep, when healthy or injured, is the primary indicator of how quickly you will recover. Adequate sleep is crucial for growth and recovery. Everyone needs a slightly different duration of sleep but in general the younger you are the more sleep you need (8-10 hours) while the older you get you can get away with a little less sleep (6-9 hours).
In summary, when injured it is extremely important to keep training while avoiding aggravating your injury for the fastest, most efficient recovery. Be sure to check out @adaptathletics instagram for some more specific examples of how to work around some common injuries.
Adapt Athletics Coach, CSCS, Pn1, TPI, USA Hockey Level 4