How is it that professional athletes can recover from injury like they’re being cared for by a magical wizard? Baseball players can miss less than a season after tearing major ligaments, football players bounce back from torn muscles, and Kobe Bryant even recovered from a ruptured Achilles—an injury that would end a normal man’s career—in just a few months.
The Washington Post details the extraordinary level of care athletes get when they’re injured; they are waited on hand and foot by teams of trainers, doctors and specialists, and have access to the world’s best medical technology. When Kobe Bryant injured his Achilles, he was able to use a treadmill that simulates low gravity for less impact while running. Another group of people who use these treadmills? Astronauts from NASA.
This doesn’t mean all hope is lost for mere mortals. So many non-professional athletes are their own worst enemies regarding injury recovery, ignoring the most basic treatment and prolonging the process. Don’t skip these steps to fix your own injury fast and get back on your feet.
1. See a doctor
Unless you went to medical school or at the very least have a bachelors degree in physiology or exercise science, you are in no position for self-diagnosis. If you have an injury that feels serious then it’s crucial to seek professional advice. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion. An emergency room or urgent care doctor may not spot or notice injuries the same way a specialist can.
2. Keep training
Just because you’re injured doesn’t mean you should sit on your couch for months until you feel better. This will seriously set the rest of your body back and leave it vulnerable to more injuries in the future. For example, if you have a sprained ankle, you should still complete your upper body workouts and even continue training the legs in a low-impact environment like a pool (swimming or even high knee raises in the pool to get the heart pumping). As counterintuitive as it sounds, continuing to train in a smart matter is what helps injuries heal faster.
3. Don’t rely on pill popping
Pain killers and anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen treat the symptoms of the injury but not the injury itself. They are also hard on the kidneys and, over time, hard on the body as well. Some use is acceptable and even recommended, but don’t use them as a crutch.
4. Do as the Romans do
You might not have an anti-gravity treadmill, but you can still go through the same motions athletes do to treat injuries. Don’t skip out on icing muscles and joints, and even take short ice baths if you have a tub in your house. Rotate ice with a soak in a hot tub, either in your home or at the gym. It doesn’t matter if you’re an amateur or a professional, there’s no substitute for heat and ice. Read more about how to use a hot tub for recuperation and recovery on HotTubWorks.com.
5. Don’t let it happen again
Now that you’re healed, stay that way. Kelly Starrett’s “Becoming a Supple Leopard” is a great guide to building and maintaining mobility so that your body performs well and stays healthy. Starrett is an expert on exercise science and mobility.