Coping with Injury

Perhaps this is a good time to talk about injuries and coping with them, and maybe, how not to re-injure yourself through coming back too quickly. The reason for this is because I recently had my first DNF in a fell race, through an impact injury with a rock. A few days later, my knee was still pretty swollen, I couldn’t bend it so well… In fact I could barely walk up stairs. It was going to be a good couple of weeks, if not more, before I could actually get out to run, cycle, or even get on the rowing machine.

From previous experience of dealing with athletes who have been injured, the normal reaction to being told to rest for even a couple of days from their chosen sport gives rise to cries of despair. “But I’m a runner, I’ll go crazy if I can’t run”. “but I have to do x to feel human”, but, but, but….

As someone who really enjoys exercise I hate seeing people unable to do what they enjoy because of injury. If there is any way in which we can get them back to doing some kind of activity, we will.

However, there are times, like when overuse causes an injury, or, as in my case, direct trauma means that it is a bad idea to go and do that activity, common sense has to prevail.

The Boring Bit

When you get injured your body goes through the healing process, this can be divided into 3 sections which take somewhere around the same amount of time for each person (though obviously genetics, nutrition, size of injury and not re-injuring come into the equation as well).

Up to 24 hours after the injury – Acute – swelling, stuff comes in to start the healing process, and tries to make sure you don’t make it worse by moving the injured area – hence the swelling.

Up to 12 days after the injury – Sub Acute – still a bit of swelling, the injury is healing, building blocks (collagen) is forming to try to create a base over which tissue will start re-growing, other fancy stuff is happening – re-injury at this stage is easy to do if you start thinking you are healed, and get out doing too much too soon.

Up to a year after injury – Chronic – this is long term damage control and re-modelling. As you exercise you are stressing the new tissues, and the forces that you direct through them help the collagen reform into the strongest possible matrix in order to support you and not get re-injured.
Of course, if you put too much force through the injury too quickly, you end up going back to stage One. Which is not so good, as the time table starts at the Acute stage again.

So What Can I do?!

Well. I received the “normal” comment from a few people in the days after clonking my knee… You’re injured? Not able to run? You must be going crazy!

Not in the slightest. Yes, I love to run, to cycle and to get out and exercise, but equally, I like to do that without crocking myself even more. Were I to go out and try in the acute stage, I’d end up even more injured… and that would REALLY annoy me. The issue will heal if I give it rest, and time, and nutrition, and in the meantime, I can concentrate on other things that will make me a better runner, and maybe a better person.

When I broke my ankle in 1994, I couldn’t climb trees and stuff, so I learned to juggle. With this injury, when I couldn’t really get out, my piano playing was coming along well, I’m learning the guitar, doing a fair amount of research for my degree, and doing a lot of push-ups, pull-ups and sit-ups. All of which will help with general strength for running.

No. It is not great being injured. But it gives you time to concentrate on things which you wouldn’t normally. Take that time, do something useful with it, rather than bemoaning the fact you can’t do something which you would normally do. Rest. Heal. Learn.

Come back stronger.

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