I hope you enjoyed my first blog last week, I wanted to lead on from that and speak about Injuries and setbacks. I’ve had my fair share throughout my career, suffering my first major injury at the age of 15 and I wanted to give you a bit of background before I go on. I’m now 28 years of age and there have been a few more that have been added to the list:
• Broken Leg – Age 15 (Rehab 6 months)
• Syndesmosis Ankle Sprain, otherwise known as wearing a moon boot – Age 19 (Rehab 10 weeks)
• ACL rupture – Age 22 (Rehab 15 months)
• Double Shoulder Reconstruction – Age 25 (Rehab 7 months)
• Ankle Reconstruction – Age 27 (Rehab 4 months)
Those along with your usual run of the mill sporting injuries, such as muscular strains, tendinitis and sprained ankles.
Throughout my experience I’ve realised there are a few stages you go through with a Injury/Setback and here they are:
1. Suffering the injury/Setback – Sadness, frustration, anger, the “why me” question, feeling of failure and disappointment. Which results in certain behaviours – Emotional eating/consuming crappy food (which makes you feel even worse might I add), feeling sorry for yourself and unmotivated, caring less about things that are usually important to you, taking risks and finding ways to de-stress and deal with the emotions you are feeling. This stage is completely normal and relevant, not only for injuries but any set back you may have in life – whether that be failing a test, not achieving a goal, not being picked for a team, not getting that promotion you thought you were going to get, a break up, or anything that is unexpected causing discomfort and disappointment.
2. Getting back on the horse – This is the stage where you’ve realised that you’ve had your time to sulk and cry about what has happened to you, but it’s now a turning point to re-focus, get back on track, get motivated to smash your rehab and unleash the beast that you have inside of you! For me this is the moment the switch flicks in my head, when you’ve allowed yourself to feel the emotions from stage 1, but now it’s up to you to pull yourself out of that dark place and not allow a set back no matter how big or small to take over, but for you to take back control of your journey, goals and aspirations. I find writing goals down, putting a plan in place with clear objectives and an expected return to play date to aim for helps enormously, along with the guidance from the professionals around you (Physio’s, Doctor’s, Coach’s, Psych’s etc.).
3. Now the real work starts – You’ve got your mentality sorted, you’re re-focused, motivated, got a plan in place, goals to tick off each week and you’re going to prepare to work the hardest you ever have before. It’s not going to be easy, if it was easy everyone would be doing it.
4. When things get a little harder – You have days where you wake up tired, sore, not bothered, say to yourself “it’s only one day, it doesn’t matter if I miss rehab today” or “it’s only a couple of small exercises my physio told me to do, it won’t matter if I don’t do them”. BUT, it does matter, if you’re truly serious about achieving your goals and getting back and even better to where you were, these are the moments that define you. When things get even harder just when you thought they couldn’t, keep pushing and grinding, I promise you it all becomes worthwhile after all the hard work, sacrifice, and persistence you put in. Self-satisfaction should be your most motivating tool, trying to beat yourself everyday, keeping yourself to high standards and not cutting corners, not comparing yourself to anyone around you, just fully focused on your day-to-day tasks and smashing them!
5. Another setback, why? – When you thought the initial injury was enough of a setback, when you were doing everything right, now something else goes wrong… Your patience gets tested once again. It has been very rare for me to rehab one injury, smooth sailing with no extra minor setbacks along the way, if you do get through rehab with no worries that’s amazing! But as your body readjusts to the heavy load and strain you are putting it through again, it’s so important to strengthen everything else as well as the injured area, to ensure nothing else breaks down. Sometimes this stage is unfortunate, sometimes it’s just when you push your body that hard something has to give, or sometimes it’s an area of weakness that hasn’t been functioning in a while and is getting use to that type of training and load again.
6. Light at the end of the tunnel – You’re back on track, it’s getting so close to being back out there to play, you’re excited, but also a little nervous because your worst fear is suffering another setback so close to returning to play and it can put unnecessary stress on your mind and body. This stage for me is the most stressful, especially when your goal is approaching fast and you either feel on track and ready, or you feel scared that you’re not going to be ready in the timeframe they said you should. You push yourself even harder, which at this stage could be a good or bad thing because your body is adapting and also trying to recover to be back to 100% and prepare to play again.
7. You’re back!!! – You’ve achieved your goal of getting back to full health and fitness; you should be sooo proud of yourself! When you think back and reflect on your rehab, it’s inspiring to recognise what you went through, physically, but mostly mentally. Those inner demons and battles you had with yourself on a daily or weekly basis, you defeated the negative thoughts and there’s honestly no greater feeling throughout any set back in life, to know where you once were and to look at how far you’ve come and where you are now!
8. Appreciation – You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. When you get it back, you appreciate it more than ever! The small things that didn’t bring you joy before now do – Being pain free, or completing an exercise without discomfort, enjoying doing what you love in it’s purest form like you did when you were an 8 year old little girl.
Rehab is one of the most loneliest places, when you’re use to being surrounded by teammates and being apart of a team culture, to all of a sudden training alone for hours, weeks and months on end, it’s just you in your own head, with physios and coaches there for support.
I think it’s so important to not devalue your struggles and what I mean by that is no matter how big or small the setback, they’re all just as important as each other. Only you deep down know how hard it actually was to get through the tough times you’ve faced, and it’s ok to give yourself a pat on the back and show some self –love and empathy, it’s healthy to be positive and loving internally.
Be proud of yourself for taking adversity head on and continuing to build resilience, for when something tries to shake you up next time you know how to deal with it – with an unwavering foundation of mental toughness.
The biggest thing injury has taught me, is Appreciation and Perspective.
It really is true, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone, or you know what you’ve got but you don’t value and appreciate it as much as you should until you no longer have it. I’m so grateful to be a professional athlete, to do what I love doing everyday for a job is pretty amazing and you learn to take the bad with the good and the super highs with the lowest lows. I’m so appreciative for what I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing throughout my career and I sure as hell appreciate the small things in life and in football.
I owe a lot to my family and close friends who have been there supporting me through my brightest times, but mostly my darkest. Without my Mum, Dad and 3 siblings (Aaron, Sarah and Wes) I wouldn’t be where I am today, chasing this round ball around all over the world. Everyone needs a support network, whether that is family, friends, a partner or professional help, because those are the people that will be there when you’re struggling and need help, not just when you’re winning and lifting trophies.
Nothing comes easy in life and when you’re not afraid of failure that is when you truly unlock the key to success and your own happiness.