Post Injury Depression is a real phenomenon that has been experienced by many athletes, I personally dealt with this at two major times in my life.
First of all, what is Post Injury Depression (PID)? Post Injury Depression is exactly what it sounds like, you suffer an injury, which is devastating in itself, but after the initial injury you feel an unexplainable loss of purpose or lack of drive. You long to jump back into your sport or activity because you have built an endorphin based reward system on your activity of choice. Which is great! You have probably also built a dependable routine around your sport as well as social circle with like-minded individuals, and just like that you are torn away from your normal schedule and companions. Who wouldn't get a little depressed?
My first bout with PID occurred when I was just 9 years old. I was playing football, when one of my good friends tackled me, resulting in freak, spiral fracture of my left femur. I was in the hospital for over 2 weeks, where I under went surgery to place a titanium rod in my femur as well as undergoing some not so great rehab. When I was finally sent home, I was unable to attend school for another week, I was obviously not playing any sports and on top of it all my loving family felt so bad that they fed me like starving Ethiopian child. In no time I had gained 20 pounds, was stuck on crutches for another 3 months and had to sit in my classroom all by myself and read while the rest of my class had PE!
A nine year old is meant to run and play and develop, and have social interactions with their friends. When I suffered this injury it not only broke my leg, but really my heart, because it robbed me of who I was.
My second bout with PID occurred just 2 months ago. I was running a trail race at local state park, I was cruising in second place with 5 miles left to go, on one of the flattest parts of the trail. When, out of nowhere I hit a root and severely sprained my left ankle. I immediately knew that it was bad, I just didn't know exactly how bad. I had torn a ligament, had some bone bruising and I also strained the connection between my tibia and fibula, otherwise known as a high ankle sprain.
Me, being the rehab guy, figured I could get back to running in two weeks, no problem! It was when I tried to play golf at 3 weeks out that I realized I was in for the long haul. This is when the 'dark' thoughts started to creep in. "You're getting old", "am I going to have to stop running", "how long is this going to take", "I wonder if I'll be as good as I was before the injury?". As I sat in my office rehabbing my ankle late one night, all of these thoughts were spinning wildly around my head. That's when I realized that this injury was really a blessing. A blessing? I know you're saying, 'yeah right, this guy is full of shit". Honestly though, I realized that this injury did not occur because my foot simply hit a root, it happened because my body was not able to handle the fact that my foot hit that root. I profess this to patients everyday, but it took me a while to get it through my thick skull and apply it to my current situation.
So what did I do?
I started working on all of those trouble spots and deficiencies in my movement patterns. Why not look at every injury in the same light as an automobile recall. Sure, no one wants to leave their car at the shop for 2 or 3 days, but if we don't take it in to get worked on that Ford Pinto my burst in to flames killing us all! An injury is no different, it is forced down time to obviously rehab the acute injury, but it also gives us time to clean up our known biomechanics problems. In an ideal world we would be in tune with our body enough to know when something is out of kilt before an injury happens, but in reality athletes are notorious for pushing through pain and not devoting quite enough time to prehab/rehab which leads to the major blowout.
So next time you get sidelined with an injury, take the appropriate amount of time to sulk, but then turn that anguish into fuel to truly improve. Chances are that you did not get hurt just by chance. Find out where you can improve and go to work...become bulletproof!
Until next time...
"Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears."
- Marcus Aurelius
Dr. Beau Beard, DC, MS, CCSP