5 Ways to Stay Positive While Recovering From Your Sports Injury
Back in July of 2020, I had my first "major" sport-related surgery. Starting back in January of 2020, I was having sharp pain in my back, right glute and posterior chain shooting all the way down to my ankle. Thanks to my Sports Medicine doctor, Dr. Will Graham of Sporting Medicine, I was encouraged (maybe slightly forced) to go get an MRI. Based off of an old x-ray I had, he was able to determine that I had hip dysplasia and FAI (Femoroacetabular impingement & CAM lesion) and that the MRI would be able to see if I also had a labral tear - which it confirmed shortly after. From that point, I ended up meeting with an Orthopaedic Surgeon and we booked my hip scope surgery for July 10th, 2020.
It's been a rough road for me - someone who lives for fitness and working out. I might not be the model for positivity throughout this process but hopefully my experience will help to inspire someone else who may be planning to have a major surgery or who is currently recovering from one. Here are a few things I have learned that can be vital toward your recovery journey!
1. Build a good support team - I knew I was in good hands from the start of this process with Dr. Graham. As a former orthopaedic surgeon who now owns his own practice helping athletes of all ages, he has an incredible amount of knowledge. I'll be honest - my surgeon didn't provide me with a whole lot of information. Our pre-surgery consult lasted about 15 minutes before he was out the door and on to the next appointment. Even before the surgery, I only saw him for a couple minutes in pre-op. In that short amount of time, it's hard to know what questions to ask. Anytime anything came up or I had any questions about the surgery or what I could and couldn't do post-op, Dr. Graham was there to help.
You'll also need to find yourself a great physical therapist -- Dr. Annie Linville of Grow PT has been not only a physical therapist for me but also a life coach at times lol. I've cried so many times on her PT table just because I was frustrated with my progress or what I felt like was a lack of progress. She's also amazing at her job so that helps too. Lastly, I started doing weekly sessions with Ben Oliva of Apex Performance Psych who recently moved to Charlotte from NY. Ben is a certified mental performance consultant (CMPC) and licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) who specializes in training athletes and performers of all ages to maximize their potential by teaching evidence-based mental skills and techniques that apply both on and off the field (or in the gym for myself). This has been a huge for me in helping me not only with my recovery but just life in general -- will talk more about this in point #3.
2. Read the book "Rebound: Train Your Mind to Bounce Back Stronger from Sports Injuries" - Seriously, just do it. My good friend and pro triathlete recently suffered from a major ACL injury and she sent me this book right after my surgery. Such a great, encouraging read and would definitely recommend it to any athlete who suffered a major injury or who is going through the rehab process. Find the book here!
3. Mindfulness Activities - This is one thing I learned from my mental performance coach, Ben. Since I no longer have my normal stress relief outlet of fitness/working out, I've needed to find other things that I enjoy doing to feel fulfilled. I've most recently started going for "mindful walks" where I just turn everything off and focus on being in that present moment. So many times, I let my mind wander or focus on what I'm doing next or what I should be doing instead of this walk. It's taken some practice but I'm finally getting the hang of it. Another thing I like to do to be mindful is cook - really focusing on what I'm doing in the kitchen rather than my normal half-cooking half-messing around on my phone routine.
4. Focus on the small wins - Every small step counts. I literally celebrated every little thing (including my first shower after surgery, woohoo). Cheer yourself on or lean on your support system to encourage you but always find something to be proud of daily.
5. Remember that progress isn't always linear - This is something I had to learn from experience. I thought that after surgery I would just continue to progress and progress and it would be a straight line up to the finish line -- boy I was wrong. I would take 5 steps forward and 10 steps back sometimes and that is okay! Don't get down on yourself if that happens -- it's completely normal and part of the process.
As I mentioned earlier, I haven't been the model of post-surgery positivity but I do think I've remained pretty hopeful throughout the process and so can you!