Coping with Injuries as a Judo Athlete.
Judo is a tough sport, you are going to get hurt. You are going to get sprains, bruises, strains and often worse. The higher up the performance ladder you climb, the higher the probability that you get injured. Why? because to make it to the top of the sport of Judo you have to push yourself hard, you need to push the boundaries of your physical capabilities and eventually you will probably push too hard and get hurt. And lets not forget the injuries that you can’t control, like when a partner throws you awkwardly.
If you are going to be a Judo athlete, you will need to learn to cope with injuries.
You can probably break down injuries into two broad categories, over-use injuries and trauma injuries. Over-use injuries are when you push it too hard and something gives. You train too hard and don’t recover properly, then you pull a muscle or your knee gives out. This is an over-use injury.
Alternatively, the club heavyweight falls on the side of your leg and suddenly you are on the floor in agony. Alternatively, your partner bangs heads with you and you split your eyebrow open and start to bleed. These are trauma injuries.
With both type you need to do two things, deal with the immediate injury appropriately and also recover over the longer term.
The immediate actions or first aid is really important and can have a huge impact on your recovery. The R.I.C.E. treatment methodolgy should be implemented as soon as possible. You should hopefully have access to a qualified medical person in your club, you should have Ice available at the dojo and the injury should be treated seriously. Judo is pretty bad at times for ignoring injuries, often to the longer term detriment of the athlete as training is impacted because they might be sore (that bruise on your shin for example) or for worse injuries you may prolong the weakness in the affected area. Get you injuries treated, get them treated right, get it done right away.
Both types of injury should be treated with R.I.C.E. and will often occur in the Dojo.
Trauma injuries are often just unavoidable accidents, sometimes they could have been avoided. So if you are serious about your Judo career you need to minimise the risks to injury that you can. Fix ripped mats, make sure there are no gaps between mats, things like that. Also make sure you are doing sensible training with sensible partners of the right size and type.
Over-use injuries are often the result of errors in your training affecting weaknesses in your body. You want to do two things, firstly know where the weaknesses in your body are. To do this you may need to consult with a doctor and/or physiotherapist and get a thorough assessment of your body. You must also do everything in your power to ensure you train within your bodies limitations using sensible training. Importantly you should ensure you are recovering properly between training. Mike & Gene on www.theJudoPodcast.com recently discussed this with Dr. Calvin Johnson, M.D.
Once you’ve gotten over the initial injury you will need to recover, if it is a minor injury you may be able to train normally. But if it is more serious it may require modification or complete cancellation of your regular training. Rest is often good, and perhaps you might need to do recoperative exercises. Dave over at the Advanced Apprenticeship Judo Blog has recently posted a video of one of his apprentices doing recovery training, you should take a look.
This covers the physical side (basically at least), what you also need to address is the emotional side and the logistical side.
Emotionally, you may find that you struggle. This might be the time when you find yourself “down in the dumps” or your confidence might take a hit. These are normal emotional responses and things you need to be prepared for. It will happen and you need to be ready for it. If you have access to a sports psychologist, try and talk to them about this topic, preferably before it happens, but during recover also.
Logistical issues are also a big problem to overcome. If you get hurt, your training will be affected, you might not be healthy for competitions. You might have to spend your budget on physiotherapy rather than on dojo mat fees. You may have to cancel a trip in favour of getting x-rays. All your training cycles may now require alteration to ensure you peak at the right time.
Hopefully, this post will achieve one thing, it will forewarn you of what will eventually occur. You will get hurt, you will have to deal with an injury and the impact that has on your training. One of the best ways to cope with injuries and the impact on your training and life; is to be aware that they will occur and to be prepared for that eventuality.
You don’t want an injury to be something you are not prepared for, you need to have a plan for entering an injured state. It is like any other element of your training as a Judo athlete, you need to plan for it.
As always, the best approach is to discuss this with your coaches and advisors. Talk to your coach, your doctor, your physio, your psychologist, your nutritionist, etc, etc.