The day before I signed my first professional contract at Northampton Saints and fulfil my dream of becoming a professional rugby player I tore all the ligaments in my knee so badly the surgeon thought I would walk with a limp again for the rest of my life, let alone play rugby again.
16 months later I took the field to compete in my first professional game. I know how difficult it is to make that comeback and it all comes down to mindset. So for this first Recovery Club of the year I want to share some of my insights on how you can make that comeback.
Set Small Goals
The importance of setting small goals cannot be stressed enough - being out injured is difficult mentally. All the momentum you’ve been building, all the progress you’ve made stops overnight and that’s hard to take.
So you’ve got to set small, achievable goals to help focus your mind and give yourself that sense of accomplishment you get from training. Apply that competitive nature to your recovery.
For example, if you find yourself like me back when I damaged my knee, in a knee brace and on crutches set yourself a series of goals like this:
- Transition from crutches to walking with knee brace.
- Improve knee flexion in brace, working back to full 135 degrees.
- Get out of a knee brace and start light training.
- Improve strength back in leg.
- Progress to running.
- Return to training.
- Return to contact training.
- Play rugby again.
Now we’ve broken one big goal down into multiple smaller goals, and then each one of those goals can further be broken down again to give you daily challenges to achieve.
Invest In Your Body
There are no shortcuts when it comes to returning from injury, but there are ways you can invest in your body with products and supplements that will help enhance the healing process and get your moving pain free again, faster. Here’s a few that I’ve used personally over the years and can recommend.
- MyoPump compression boots - great for improving blood flow that will help bring key nutrients to the injured area, something that can also stop small niggles developing into worse injuries. The compression also removes fluid and reduces swelling.
- MyoPulse EMS system - the electrical pulses from the EMS system contract muscles and activate them to stop wastage during a period of injury, which is particularly useful when you can’t put any load on a limb. They were incredible when coming off crutches to get some strength back into my leg.
- MyoCuff occlusion cuffs - by restricting blood flow with an inflating tourniquet applied to the top of the limb you can trick the body into releasing growth hormones like IGF-1 which helps muscles grow faster. It also allows you to get the same adaptation to exercise using lighter weights, reducing the chances of injuring yourself again. This has been a staple in my recovery process for years now.
- Collagen supplements - between 65% - 80% of the dry weight of your tendons is collagen, specifically type 1 collagen. It’s a protein our body uses for tissue repair as well as other important cellular functions. It’s a great supplement to take for consistent use but especially when you’re dealing with any soft tissue injuries.
Know When It’s The Right Time To Come Back
Ensuring you have properly cleared each of the gradual steps you’ve set out in your recovery plan is the best way to know when it’s the right time to come back, at every step though you have to listen to your body.
There will be days that the injury will be sore or you’ve overdone it and you need to take it back a bit, rest up and let it heal for a few days before moving forward again. Then when you’ve hit all your targets you can begin your return to sport.