Reflective Essay: Life After a Sports Injury
For me, soccer was more than just a sport. I have been kicking around a soccer ball for as long as I can remember and running with shin guards for most of that time. So when I incurred a groin injury that prevented me from playing soccer for almost an entire year, I was obviously frustrated and disappointed. This injury prohibited me not only from playing soccer at my 100% capacity, but limited all of my training for a period of 9 months as well. Long gone were my days of sprints, passing drills and weight lifting. It felt unfair that I should have this injury when all my team mates continued to run on the field, doing all the same movements I did. Only I hurt my groin and the sense of injustice I felt was frustrating. I was angry but I knew that I had to set this rage aside and focus on getting better. Needless to say the pain I incurred from this injury was unbearable and kept me off the field for months. However this wasn’t the worst of the injury.
Everyday activities for me were painful as well. Walking up stairs became painful as was bending down to pick something up. But even simple tasks such as getting out of bed, sitting down at the table and standing up became difficult. Every time I coughed and my body jolted, I was in pain. For many months, waking up in the morning was an exercise in itself and even before I left my house, I experienced a great deal of pain. Never before did I imagine that these daily activities could be so difficult nor did I ever think of all the muscles at work for these simple actions I do everyday without a second thought.
In order to help heal and strengthen my muscles, I underwent intensive physical therapy for months. For three to four hours everyday, I went to my rehabilitation appointments where a personal trainer helped me in my activities. Slow exercises and muscle isolating movements helped me with my injury but with slow results. I was often frustrated seeing weakness within myself and noting that simple exercises that I knew could have done without blinking before my injury were now beyond my reach. Even as I pushed myself during my therapy sessions, the weakness I felt and the struggle to do small movements gave me feelings of disappointment. I could not stand seeing myself so physically disabled and each day was an inner struggle. Although I could see small improvements I wanted to be back at 100% as quickly as I had hurt myself. The slow process of physical therapy was trying on me both physically and mentally. I was always accustomed to believing that if I set my mind on a physical task, I would be able to accomplish it but with my muscles injured, no amount of thinking positively could instantly heal my muscles to work the way I wanted them to. Only slow, tedious exercises would help my muscles regain their strength, agility and flexibility to what they had been when I was in top form as a soccer athlete.
For the first three to four months of therapy my progress was good and I could see improvement each time I went to my training sessions. I felt that I would be back on the field by the next season, at least training with my team mates once again. I felt hopeful with the progress I was making and motivated to continue. The small steps forward I was making thrilled me and I would arrive at my training with a positive attitude, ready to see further progress. However the months following did not continue this positive improvement.
For the following five to nine months, my progress in therapy was frustrating. It felt as though I was taking just as many steps forward as I was back and I was getting nowhere. My trainer had told me that it was common to plateau when training but nevertheless I was disappointed that I could not break through. One month I would see slight improvements only to follow the next month with set-backs. It was as if I was getting weaker and it felt like I would never improve and never be able to sprint after the ball during a game again. I was angry at myself for not being able to improve and get better and frustrated at my trainer as well. It seemed that none of his exercises did any good and his advice felt useless at these times. I was still doing the same tedious exercises only with no progress and during these months, it felt useless to even continue my physical training sessions. But for the few moments where I could see a small step forward, I felt elated and motivated to continue. These small glimmers of hope reminded me of my determination to be back on the field for hours a day where I belonged, and not spending hours a day in rehabilitation.
In the end, my groin injury only really ever got better when I was at about 90% capacity and was able to test it under pressure. By the time I reached 90% capacity, I was able to start training with my competitive soccer club again, doing the same exercises as my team mates once again. After almost a whole year of therapy I was back outside and kicking around a soccer ball just like I had been for so much of my life. This injury was a trying experience both physically and mentally for me, forcing me to push myself physically in order to regain my previous form and testing me mentally with every improvement and set-back. It was an emotional roller-coaster for me that humbled me and taught me much about myself and the things I could achieve. I learned that I could not take my physical capabilities for granted because they could be taken away from me at any time, keeping me not only from my favorite sport, but from my everyday activities as well.