Do you train when you are injured? Should you train when you are injured? Of course it depends to some extent on the nature of the injury and whether surgery or other medical intervention is required to correct it.
I recently had an e-mail from someone who had fairly recently taken up martial arts but had sustained a shoulder injury requiring surgery and her doctor had advised her to stop doing martial arts. She was asking me what I thought and whether I had sustained injuries doing martial arts.
Well, who hasn’t sustained some kind of injury doing martial arts? Anything from bumps, bruises, sprains or pulls to ACL tears, rotator cuff injuries, fractured ribs, noses – you name it, it will have happened to someone. It is almost inconceivable that you will never sustain some kind of injury when you train in martial arts – it’s an occupational hazard!
Surely if we gave up a physical activity every time we were injured we would soon become a world of couch potatoes. Being prepared to risk physical injury and endure the pain of it whilst training on is part of the mental and spiritual development that martial arts are known for.
I had a chronic ‘quad’ injury last year when preparing for my black belt training. I could barely lift my knee up let alone kick with that leg. It didn’t occur to me to stop training until it healed! However I was highly motivated to speed up the healing process (6 weeks from grading) and eventually got relief from a deep tissue massage. Now I have a chronic shoulder injury. I have had a course of physiotherapy which has brought about some minor improvement and I’m planning to try another deep tissue massage to my shoulder, neck and back. However, I have continued to train throughout, putting up with the discomfort and pain afterwards.
My husband continues to train with a chronic hip problem – he literally hobbles home sometimes. My husband is a doctor; if he were his own patient he would probably advise himself to stop doing martial arts. However, this advice would only help his hip (or maybe not – it might get worse with no exercise!) but it wouldn’t help him – he is a whole person, not just a hip. He would be miserable if couldn’t carry on with training – he’d rather put up with the pain!
How far should we be prepared to go training with a chronic injury? I am always impressed with the courage and fortitude of people who fight back to fitness after a serious injury so they can continue enjoying the activity they love. I’m sure you can all name someone who didn’t give up their martial art because of an injury and fought back to fitness, probably in spite of their doctor’s advice.
Of course there are things we can do to minimise our chance of injury. Injuries often happen because muscles are not strong enough to stabilise joints, or our posture is bad or our technique is incorrect. Keeping our bodies in tip-top condition is a necessary part of martial arts training. Good posture, muscle tone, flexibility, general body movement, as well as good technique – particularly for throwing where you need to bear the full weight of your partner- will help to reduce the chances of injury and help to speed up recovery if it happens.
In my opinion (and I’m not a doctor) unless it is actually fractured, dislocated, sprained to the point you can’t weight bear, bleeding heavily, just been operated on or has rendered you unconscious there is no need to stop training. Grin and bear the discomfort and train on. If it’s bad enough to put you out of action for a while then phase your return as you build up your fitness again – but don’t give up all together.
Remember! You are more than the sum of your parts. You are certainly more than your injury so don’t be defined by it. What’s best advice for your injury isn’t necessarily best advice for your whole person – you just have to be more sensible about the way you train in future. There are people out there training from wheelchairs, now that’s to be admired!
If you are determined to succeed you will find a way …