I'll let you in on a secret: The most common triage responses athletes employ to get back on track soon after injury are not mysterious and do not involve superpowers—they're simple, commonsense responses to reset focus, problem solve, and face challenges. I know these principles work because I've seen them in play firsthand—not just in my patients but also in myself.
Snowbird, Utah. It's been a great day of skiing. When I'm done, I stop to watch my youngest daughter, Ava, on the bunny hill, and I'm so happy and focused that I don't see the out-of-control snowboarder racing in my direction. Whack! I fly forward and land with a terrible thud on the cold snow. A burning, numbing sensation radiates down my left side. I'm in shock, but I'm also cognizant of three other very important things:
- I'm not okay.
- I can't get up and I can't walk.
- Surgery is inevitable.
Mostly, I'm aware that in a split second my life as I know it has changed. I'm just praying the damage isn't irreparable. For a lifelong jock like me, someone who relies on his daily run for energy and inspiration, this would be devastating. I know intellectually what it takes to recover from an injury like this—I've seen elite athletes do it many times. But I can't find a way to connect that to my current reality. I'm pissed. My spirit is shut down. My confidence is wrecked.
But like most life-altering epiphanies, mine happens unexpectedly, during my recovery after surgery. At first, I limp very slowly, up the block and back, on a flat surface. Over the course of the next few weeks, I add more goals and accomplishments—longer walks, then hikes, and swimming. I finally feel ready to get on my bike and I do. My spirit gets back in the game. My momentum is recharged. I have that magic that I see in athletes as they perform at the top of their game and overcome their physical challenges: the victorious spirit.
Have you had your own brush with physical injury? How did you recover?