Return to sport after injury
By Katie Czenczek, Staff Writer
A little over a month ago, I discussed how teams and coaches need to provide better preventative measures in order to stop ACL injuries from happening. Though I still believe that more needs to be done in order to prevent these injuries, sometimes accidents happen that are completely unavoidable. For example, I know from experience that it’s possible to become sandwiched between your teammate and opponent, ultimately causing your knee to dislocate as your leg becomes a ping pong ball between two rackets firing back and forth. Injuries are never fun, so here are some tips for how to get through the process without completely losing your mind, or your leg’s ability to move.
My first important tip is to not only keep up with your physio exercises and appointments, but to try and start doing them before you go in for surgery, as long as your doctor gives you the go-ahead. Getting in there and moving your leg is crucial to a speedy and effective recovery, no matter how insignificant it may feel to slightly bend and straighten your leg. Eventually, you’ll get up to the more exciting movements such as jumping, pivoting, and twisting, but you need to take the small—yet crucial—steps before getting back to your 100 per cent.
I was terrible at keeping up with my physio exercises after my ACL surgery and my leg suffered for it. If you want to get back to playing whatever sport you play competitively, or are just suffering from all of those paychecks you’re missing from work, physio is your best friend.
Another piece of advice I have for those waiting until they can do basic life movements, is to make sure that you do not rush back into playing a sport. ACL operations are an invasive form of surgery that will take time to heal fully. My doctor told me that once you’ve made it past the three-year mark post-surgery, your chances of re-tearing your ACL reduce dramatically. There’s a reason for this; people tend to get a little too impatient while waiting for their leg to recover. If you don’t do the work in physio, or you push yourself too hard too quickly, it is likely that you won’t be able to play your sport for longer. If that isn’t enough to deter you from immediately going back to play, then just picture how much longer you’ll be out if you re-tear your ACL and have to go through surgery all over again.
On the other hand, if you’re anything like me and are an overly-cautious person when recovering from injuries or illnesses, once your doctor and physio therapist give you the go ahead to return to sport, trust them. I took a full year longer than my doctor’s recommendations to play a pickup basketball game because I was terrified that I would injure myself again. It will take time and going against your most basic instincts to trust your leg again, but at some point, you need to just try it out. If it feels like you’re pushing it too far, you can always stop, but at least you’ll know your real limits rather than the ones you think you have.
Finally, if you feel like your mental health is suffering because of the injury, make sure you talk to someone about it, and remember that you aren’t alone. There are tons of people who have had this injury and it does not mean that your life will be impacted forever.