Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Fear of Injury....A Response

Zyaga from Martial Thoughts posted a thought provoking article entitled Tuesday Tip: Fear of Injury. His article struck a chord with me because of my experience with ACL surgery and recovery. After I was diagnosed with a completely torn ACL, I was given two options…surgery or no surgery. I was told that people live happy, healthy lives without an intact ACL. However, there was one very big problem. The surgeon said four words that filled the room “No ACL….no karate”. My decision to have the surgery was immediate. There was no thought involved because I knew that I needed a healthy, stable knee in order to continue training. There have been people who suggested that I stop training due to my injury.

My ACL tear occurred while working on a two-man bo form. I jumped…my foot planted…my body shifted into position…my knee gave out…I crumbled to the floor… I stood up and finished the bo form. I knew something was wrong as soon as I felt my leg slide out of position. Just writing about that feeling gives me a lump in the pit of my stomach. This was a non-contact injury. My body…my movement…caused this injury.

How did I find my way through the fear of re-injury?

The truth is I did not. It is still with me each time I step on the dojo floor, every racquetball game and each bout of sparring. I try to manage the fear by being proactive. I joined a gym so I could lift weights in order to keep my knee strong. I started Tai Chi in the hopes I will move more fluidly. I play racquetball to see how far I can push my knee.

There was a recent week that I did nothing…no karate, no Tai Chi, no racquetball and no gym. I can tell you with certainty that my knee ached during that week. I kept wondering what I did until I realized it was a direct result of what I was not doing. I know that keeping my knee healthy and strong is a daily pursuit.

I am going to keep moving forward but there is a delicate balance. If I let the fear of injury go completely, I may become reckless in my training. I need just enough fear to keep me cautious and aware.

How do you handle the fear of injury?


Anonymous said...

Love the article. It very accurately demonstrates the point I was trying to get across by being a real life example.

Just as each person is different, so is every situation. Thus, there is no sole answer as to what to do. Every question has it's own answer.

Noah said...

I feel your pain! I found the same thing that you did about inactivity with my knee--no workouts, more aches. Working a really low, long stances really helped me strengthen it up (and are helping me strengthen it up again after not having done the stances as much as Judo), but to really get rid of that fear in the mean time, I have to wear a good knee brace. The stances will strengthen it up over time, but the brace gives that extra feeling of security. Sure, it does limit my movement a bit, but over time with the stance practice, I'll be able to switch to a plain ol' neoprene support and still have that extra comfort of knowing that something besides my muscles is holding my knee where it's supposed to be.

Anonymous said...

Having recently come off of an injury, I still have a bit of fear, especially when doing the technique during which I hurt myself. I take it in small steps. I wore a brace for quite some time, but started leaving it off in lower impact situations. Eventually, I slowly tested the limits of my healed joint and how far I can push it. So far, I haven't pushed it too far and I think I'm back at performing at 100%. It mostly takes time to work with it and on it and notice what bothers it and what doesn't.

Michele said...

Zyaga: Thanks!

Noah: Gotta love a knee brace. I had to wear a funtional brace during karate for a few months. After a while, I switched to a Breg Shortrunner. Currently, I am knee brace free.

Minivan Ninja: I am not sure if I am every going to be comfortable with the two-person bo form that was the "scene" of my injury. Right after I returned to the dojo, it seemed like everyone was working on the bo-bo form.

Anonymous said...

I believe you think about it too much. You only live once, I dislocated my shoulder doing something I love. After rehab I went back to doing what I love. Fear can be a good thing but it can also criple us. Your knee injury was a long time ago and you have completed your rehab. Move on and don't look back. They can always fix it again.

Michele said...

Anon: I appreciate your comments and respect your opinion. However, I am going to have to disagree. The fear has not crippled me because I chose to have the surgery and continue karate. I am more active now that I was before the surgery. I joined a gym, began to study Tai Chi and recently started racquetball. The injury has not stopped me…it made me stronger. I discuss in the post that the fear of re-injury is with me but I channel it in positive ways.

I think everyone is different. I applaud your ability to move past your shoulder injury and not look back. I believe you mentioned that you were fishing recently on the same river that your injury happened. Did you think about your shoulder that day? Were you slightly more cautious when you walked over the slippery rocks in the river?

Anonymous said...

To answer your question. I did not think about the shoulder injury, and I was no more or less cautious. Sometimes a little help from Evan Williams does the trick.

Michele said...

Anon(brother): At first, I thought you were referring to a motivational speaker of some sort. Then I are talking about bourbon.

Anonymous said...

Geez, if Evan Williams didn't drastically increase the likelihood of re-injury in karate, I'd invite him over far more often.

Good post. I also tore my ACL through my own actions, through bad form. But up to now (almost 11 months post surgery) I've been more worried about hurting the healing process than incurring another trauma.

That said, I've been lifting weights and doing balance exercises for the same reason: to strengthen and protect my knee.

I'm not sure how much fear I'll have. I haven't really thought twice about doing too many things.

But I am definitely more wary. And I'm pretty sure I'll be keeping a sharper eye out for potential dangers as a start to return and get back up to speed.

Hack Shaft said...

I noticed how much I'm externalizing my own fear as I recover from my 2nd reconstruction.

While watching my daughter's class work at Karate, for example, I cringe when I see poor form on turning kicks. So many kids spinning on their heels in a very uncontrolled fashion vs. proper technique which is on the ball of the foot.

I almost can't watch other people working on Tornado kicks! While the kick wasn't the source of my injury, the landing was.

Believe me, when I return I'm going to work a LOT on where I have my center of balance!!!

Diver Daisy said...

Me? I just wear my headgear a lot :) hehe
Besides, its a real nice pink!

Michele said...

BBBlues: Thanks for commenting. I did not spend enough time working on balance during the early stages of recovery. I found this out during Tai Chi class. The transitional movements require all my weight to be on one leg while I slowly step forward. My leg is definitely stronger now because of this motion.

Hack Shaft: Thank you for your comments. There are seven people in the dojo with some sort of knee issue/surgery/brace. We have quite the knee support group!

Diver Daisy: Head gear...very wise. I have sparred without head gear and wished I had been wearing it.

Urban Samurai said...

I have had similar experiences over the years to the one you describe. When I went back to training after breaking an ankle it took me a while before I could kick the bag with full power again. I kept thinking I was going break the ankle again if I hit too hard. It was just a physchological barrier I had to get over.

I recently hurt my back as well. Same thing happened. It just takes a bit of time to get over that fear again, that's all. Just break yourself in gently and before you even know what's happening your training flat out again.

At some point you just decide to get on with it. It's like taking a leap of faith.

Good post!

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Anonymous said...

Thank you about this article becuase I am in the same boat. I been doing Tae Kwon Do for 13 years and I had my knee fixed about four years ago. However I still have the fear that I will twist or tear my ACL. By reading this and talking to my master I found out that I must not let my mind play tricks on me but try to push my body to become strong. Thank you again.

The Barefoot Lawyer said...

I dislocated my big toe a while ago, causing the bone to pop out and break the skin (5 stitches).

What helped me at the beginning of recovery was taking things in small steps, literally and mentally. I wore special shoes with the permission of my instructor. Even when the stitches were gone, though, I had to deal with the fear of getting re-injured again. That's where the mental aspect came in: I'll constantly test myself in different ways, each getting progressively more "risky." (i.e. running without shoes but with athletic tape, doing spinning kicks with tape only, etc)

You know what the funny thing was? I came back after a two month break due to work and ended up forgetting which toe I had dislocated. ;)

Michele said...

Hi T:

Thank you for visiting my blog! Glad to hear your toe is better...a disclocated toe sounds painful. Good tip on approaching recovery in small steps.

Thanks again,

Zimmer Knee Replacement Recall said...

Of course, all the preparation and preventative measures in the world won't always work and that's when you have to decide, a) what to do if you can't exercise and b) when you should see your doctor. I put together a few resources below, but I want to hear from you. Have you had a serious injury that kept you from exercising? How did it happen and how did you handle it without going crazy?

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