Injuries are awful. I hate them. I hate the uncertainty. I hate the waiting. I hate the patience they require. But goodness do we experience a lot of injuries as gymnasts.
I remember going to a doctor’s appointment one time and the doctor asking me to tell her all the injuries I had had. I looked at my mom with a look I’m pretty sure said, “Are you kidding me?! We’ll be here all day!” But, I sat there and did my best to go through each and every injury I had ever had as a gymnast. And let’s just say that’s a VERY long list.
If you name it, I’ve probably had it. Not to mention the two tears I currently have in my shoulder from spotting. So I’m having surgery in a month to fix that up. Basically all I’m trying to say is I’ve been there. I was pulled out of my level 10 state meet because I found out the week before I was supposed to compete that my back was fractured… for the third time. I missed an entire season because of a tear in my shoulder (completely unrelated to the ones I have now). I competed level 9 Eastern Nationals on a fractured arm (not recommending you do that.)
But injuries are something you have to be able to navigate as a gymnast. You have to learn to take care of your body. You have to learn to be patient and actually listen to your doctor… even though it’s not fun. At all.
I’m writing this to encourage you today. I want you to know that when you’re facing an injury and aren’t allowed to do anything, it’s going to be okay. You’re going to get through it. But there are some things you need to remember as you wait patiently for your injury to heal.
- It won’t last forever.
It’s so easy to get caught up in being miserable and bored because you can’t do anything. And because of that, it’s really easy to just ignore your doctor and do what you want. Please don’t do that! In the grand scheme of things, this injury is only a very short part of your gymnastics career. And if you push it too much, you might end up prolonging your injury even further, and I can tell you right now that you DO NOT want that! It’s much better to be patient (I know it’s hard) and listen to your doctor. Give your body the time it needs to heal. It won’t last forever. And you might even heal faster than expected if you do what you’re supposed to do! But it might last longer than you want it to if you jump back in too soon.
- You only get one body.
I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the body you have now is the only one you get in this life! And it has to last! I know it might feel like a good idea to take your boot off your broken ankle so you can test it to see if it’s better yet, but DON’T DO IT! You need that ankle to last until you’re 100 years old! And if you push it now, you’re probably going to live in pain for a big chunk of your life. And it’s just not worth it. I promise you, you do not want to live in pain. And you do not want to have to have surgery because you didn’t take care of your body. I’ve been through both. It’s not fun.
- You have time to get stronger!
I know, I know. Conditioning isn’t fun. But in this sport, it’s 100% necessary. Use the time you would usually be spending on skills to keep your strength up, and maybe even gain a little! Your skills will be so much easier when you do get to come back if you keep on strengthening your muscles. If you get lazy and depressed because you “can’t do anything”, you’ll lose a lot of strength and your skills will be that much harder when you’re released to start training again. This time can be so beneficial if you’ll actually use it to your advantage!
Sometimes it’s tempting to lose hope and give up when you’re injured. Especially if it means you miss out on competing for a season. But I promise you’re going to be okay. I remember waking up with back pain every single morning, so much so that bending over to brush my teeth was excruciating. And I was only seventeen! I was so scared that I was going to have to live with that pain for the rest of my life. Now my injury did require surgery, but I remember a few weeks after surgery bending over to brush my teeth and all of a sudden realizing I wasn’t in pain anymore! It was amazing! But I had to be patient. I had to do what my doctor told me I needed to do.
Thankfully, most gymnastics injuries don’t require surgery like mine did, but they ALWAYS require patience. If you do what your doctor tells you to do, if you do your boring physical therapy, if you’re patient throughout the healing process, you’re going to wake up one day and realize that you’re not in pain anymore! Doing your skills will be fun again because they won’t be painful! So choose to be patient. I promise it’s worth it.