Thursday, May 22, 2008

Listen to Your Body: The Importance of Injury Recovery

People who are into the martial arts hardcore find it hard to do what is necessary to recover from an injury if it means skipping training or holding back during training. I count myself among them. That being said, I've learned how important it is to listen to your body when it tells you it's hurt.

Yesterday, I had two people in my class who didn't want to listen to their body. One of them hurt their toe while doing cone hops. He thought he had just bruised it until I called out to the class, "Ok everybody, stop what you're doing... Who's bleeding?" There were a couple of pools of blood on the mats that had me worried. The student who had though he had just "bruised" himself came forward. I took him into the washroom to administer first aid and discovered that he had a very deep, wide cut across the webbing of his baby toe. He had managed to cut his toe on part of the plastic where there was a design cut into the cone (*never using THOSE cones again...).

"This is going to need stitches," I told him. He resisted somewhat saying he wanted to just wrap it up and keep training. For further credibility, I had the student in my class who is a doctor have a look and confirm my diagnosis. I wrapped the student's foot in gauze and sent him off to go get stitched. The student was more frustrated about missing class than he was about the actual injury. While I appreciate the sentiment, my students' well-being comes first. If he had tried to let that cut heal on its own, there was a chance it could have gotten infected. Ultimately, this might have caused him to miss more than the one class.

Another example of this mentality came from the same class. I had a new student who was very keen about training with us. He was just coming back to training in the martial arts after having suffered a back injury. I told him to do whatever he was comfortable with in the class and that there was no pressure to do everything. I wanted to make sure he didn't do anything that might hurt his back.

During the class, he did everything I showed and didn't take it easy at all. Though it looked like he was fine, he later confessed that the breakfalls were a little hard on his back. He explained that he wanted to test his back to see if he'd be able to go the distance. Upon hearing this, I warned him not to rush it, to go easy for the first period while he learns the technique of the breakfalls and to let his body gradually build strength for the new type of exercise. If this student were to continue on pushing himself too hard, too quickly, he might re-injure his back. Then he'd have to start the whole recovery process all over again.

As much as we martial artists like to push ourselves to our physical limits, we still do have limits and when the body cries out, it's best not to ignore it.

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