You need surgery.
Those are the three words that every athlete prays they never hear. Aside from the onset of depression that ensues from being on the DL, for most, facing surgery forces deep introspection. It goes far beyond whether or not you’ll be able to play in the near future. Instead, it forces the athlete to ask what if? What if worked a little harder could this have been avoided? If I didn’t half-ass my mobility drills every day could I have made that cut more efficiently? Or if I fueled my body like an athlete should would I have had more energy in the 4th quarter when I got hurt? This thought process can consume you because there is no game tomorrow or next week to rectify the situation. It’s natural for athletes because when you’re injured that’s all you’re left to do…or is it?
Surgery and injuries suck. Clearly. I’ve had my fair share (three) and I can’t say that I’ve enjoyed any part of rehabbing. However, at the same time, I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have to go through surgery and the grind that it takes to get back (I didn’t pitch in a meaningful game post Tommy John for 20 months). I had my moments of introspection and it forced me to grow up in a hurry. My training and nutrition up to that point had been fueled by my learning in bro science. Daily max effort squats? Sure thing. Pizza, post workout? I was carb back loading before I could spell insulin. I was forced to educate myself but the most important lesson didn’t involve discovering what loading parameter would have the greatest carry over to generating force in the sagittal plane or what nutrient timing would maximize protein synthesis. No, not even close. It was this:
No matter the circumstances, there is always an opportunity to get better.
Time never stops so why should your injury stop you in your pursuit of getting a little bit better that day? If you don’t, there are far too many individuals in the world with the same exact goals and dreams as you and you will get passed. I promise you.
So you have a torn elbow? What’s stopping you from building thunderous quads and an ass that makes a statement? Sure, you may not be able to comfortably buy a pair of jeans but do you want to squat the house or what? Broken leg? Since when do you need a leg to build slabs of beef on your lats?
The answer is you don’t. Right now, I may sound like a lunatic or a person that would consider training even on my deathbed and both of these statements may have some truth to them but I speak from experience because I lived the two situations above. I may have pushed the limits, but I’ve never front squatted more in my life than during the first six months of my elbow rehab. My best 1 RM on chin-ups was 5 months post-surgery.
Was that the smartest thing? Probably not but that’s not what’s relevant here. The point is that nothing, not even a surgery or injury should deter you from getting after it and chasing your goals. Obviously, there are special circumstances, but I have seen an athlete hobbling around 10 days post-ACL repair destroying his upper body, so there aren’t many.
You have no excuse. If you want it bad enough, you will find a way. It’s that simple.
I was fortunate enough to have Eric Cressey and the team at Cressey Performance in my backyard. I showed up to his facility 10 days post-op and we immediately started to get after it. I met the prowler for the first time and it won. It won a lot.
It’s important that you find your own Eric Cressey. Find someone in your area who can address your weaknesses through intelligent programming. If you’re injured, it’s probably because you have some compensation patterns that put you in that position. Find someone who has a firm understanding of functional anatomy who can train around your injury and still address your weaknesses. Find a balance. If I had to do corrective exercise drills all day, I’d go insane. Lifting heavy shit is corrective exercise. Learn how to get after it in an intelligent manner.
Whether it’s surgery or just a minor injury, trust me when I say that if you play any game long enough, you will get banged up. There are two roads you can take. Either you can be like some athletes and use your injury as an excuse to take time off from training or you can use it as an opportunity. An opportunity to honestly asset your weaknesses and fix them. If your nutrition held you back, correct it. If you’re weak and your nervous system efficiency is terrible, find someone who you can consider an expert in the field and become powerful.
Some people will tell you that their goal rehabbing post surgery is to get you back to the level you were before. F*** that. My goal in any situation, torn elbow or not, is to come back better than before. If you want to be successful, you have no choice but to chase that.
It’s ultimately your career. Whether your goal is simply to start on your varsity team or play sports professionally, every day, every situation is an opportunity. You will encounter adversity. How you respond will dictate how far you go in your chosen sport and in life.
Which road will you take?