Why you need to listen to your body, from a sub-par athlete forced to retire

by | Apr 17, 2023 | Opinion

One thing about me is that my bones and joints are reminiscent of a senior citizen. The first thing most people say to me in response is, “You can’t say that, you’re only 23!” Usually my answer involves how I have terrible balance and an extensive history of injuries that forced me to retire early. This is a tale of caution about why you should listen to your body when you get injured.

I was involved with trampoline and tumbling for three years and rugby for two seasons. During my gymnastics “career,” I suffered several knee and ankle injuries plus a handful of others, usually resulting from a bad landing or pushing myself too far. Back then, I was younger and healed faster. But after a few years, the injuries started to add up, and it felt smart to say goodbye and move on from gymnastics. I later joined my high school rugby team, which given the physicality of the sport, it’s safe to assume the injuries only continued.

During my first season, I suffered two concussions and a meniscus tear, all of which had an extensive recovery. When I had my first concussion, I unfortunately did not receive proper protocol. I had no knowledge of the symptoms, so I couldn’t be an advocate for myself. I was unaware I had suffered severe head trauma and ended up sleeping for 16 hours straight. Luckily, that was the extent of it before I was taken to the hospital and received proper instructions on how to proceed.

My worst recovery was for my meniscus tear. During a tackle, I felt a pop and pull that I ignored for the duration of the game. I played for another hour, and I credit adrenaline and my high pain tolerance for not thinking twice about it. My knees were already quite weak from my gymnastics background, so I figured that weekend, I would be back to normal with rest like usual. Surprise! I wasn’t.

I avoided the hospital for a few weeks despite everyone telling me otherwise. Eventually, I went into the emergency room, where I was sent to specialist after specialist. Since I had been walking and using it like normal, I only made the injury worse. It then led to me depending on other muscles which created a patella-femoral pain syndrome. In layman’s terms, my quad muscle was overcorrecting the tear, causing it to pull my kneecap to grind on top of my bone. Not very fun. The next move was to go in for physiotherapy.

Most of my injuries up to this point  had never required physio, partially because it made me too anxious and embarrassed to attempt. They ran me through several exercises as well as electrotherapy to strengthen my knee. I visited regularly over a span of a month, even though they suggested longer. I wanted to get back to playing and being a part of my team because I had the fear of missing out. Don’t be me. Listen to your body.

I continued to utilize the exercises I was given, and my knee felt brand new. 

During my second and final season, I suffered countless more injuries. One vivid memory I have is of playing in our annual Red Deer tournament and being taped up from both hips down to (and including) my ankles. I was suffering from shin splints, my ongoing patella-femoral pain syndrome and a long history of sprained ankles thanks to the gopher holes on our practice field. 

It was my last season, so I decided it would be fine to continue. During this time, I suffered another concussion during our provincial playoff game. I knew what it was the second it happened, but like I said, it was my last season. I continued for the remaining 10 minutes of the game but ultimately was not able to write my English 30-1 diploma because of my injuries.

It has been 6 years since I’ve endured those injuries and all that I can offer as advice is that your body does know better. If something feels off and you convince yourself it’s fine, it most likely is not. I found that when I had taken advantage of physiotherapy and rest time, the  injuries I’ve properly treated don’t present themselves as often as my previously ignored injuries. 

Listen to me, a sub-par athlete who feels the aches and groans every day and has to avoid sports like the plague: Avoiding injury recovery can only lead to long-term issues in the future that will persist. 

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