Injury Denial to Injury Recovery
So there was this other life. The one before my official ‘running life’ began – the first 24 years when I was an elite hockey player in juniors, college and professional ranks. And the one that eventually ended in shattered NHL dreams, a bruised ego and more combined injuries than I could count on four hands.
Those injuries (over 20) were healed by the time I hung up the skates and put on the running shoes – deciding in part that another hockey injury was just too much a threat for me to return for another year.
Shortly after, the intense running and racing began. As running filled the competitive void, I never thought of it as a contact sport. After all, there weren’t 225 lbs. defensemen bearing down on my 160 lbs. frame, ready to sharpen their elbows with my face or thwack their sticks to my wrist.
But the more training one does, the more one begins to see the pounding and abuse the body takes. Mile after mile your leg muscles, tendons and bones are taken out back to the running woodshed. And if you over train and don’t give your body enough time to rest and recover between difficult workouts (or even if you do), there’s a chance you’ll get injured while running.
And what if you do get injured? Like two years ago when the doc diagnosed me with hip bursitis, a month and a half before the 2009 Chicago Marathon.
Before diagnosis, I was in deep denial about my injury. First, I tried to medicate my way to recovery. Three Advil before every workout. When that only "kind-of" worked, Icy Hot combined with the Advil was next. No dice. Then I tried to wrap the hip and run. I looked like a Mummy.
The pain didn’t go away and after a couple weeks I went to the doc. He said: "No running for three weeks, Kevin." The three most important weeks of marathon training. He also wagged his finger at me.
Quickly my mental state moved from denial (trying to play through pain) to disappointment to acceptance that there would be no race and the straightest road to recovery was taking time off to heal. After all, what was the point in racing 26.2 miles if I wasn't at my optimal performance level?
Because of all my previous hockey injuries, the physical and mental process to the road to acceptance and healing was a lot smoother than if I hadn't been through them. If I would have tried to run through this nagging injury for longer, who knows how my gait would have changed and what other injuries I would have sustained. Instead, I was relatively smart and got it checked out and began the healing process.
A few years ago, I counted my various injuries. Here are the serious ones, not including the many bumps and bruises. Enjoy my pain:
- Two diagnosed concussions (and many more undiagnosed).
- A separated left shoulder (second degree).
- Sprained left shoulder.
- A torn ligament – right thumb, which required surgery and four months of rehab.
- A deep quad contusion making my leg an inch thicker around. The blood in there calcified and turned to bone, because I tried to come back too quickly and my body was telling me that my femur was broken when it really wasn't.
- 20 stitches in my knee. A cut from my own skate. Yep.
- Six broken noses. My nose is big already. And crooked.
- High ankle sprain – out for two months.
- 5 stitches on the side of my lip.
- 5 stitches above by lip.
- Pulled groin muscle.
- Broken nail (yes it completely fell off! My poor pinky!)
- Elbow bursitis.
All other ailments caused by hockey at various points.
- Diphtheria (not really).
- Upset stomach.
- Yellow bruises.
- Black bruises.
- Blue bruises.
*I still have all my teeth, though. That’s only because my nose always got in the way.
Kevin Granato is a running coach for Granato Racing, a 2:38:00 marathoner and freelance writer. Feel free to contact him at CoachGranato@TheRunningInstitute.com.