Get proactive in your recovery from martial arts injuries! Learn how phrase such as "restricted activity," "surgery" and "therapy" don't necessarily mean your martial arts journey is drawing to a close.

Sidelined. Restricted activity. Surgery. Therapy. Those words have the power to drag down the spirits of any martial artist. When you’ve been taken out of your game by sickness or injury, you discover a whole new team of opponents standing between you and your rapid return to training and competition. And the longer it takes to get back in the game, the more prone you are to experiencing injury-related depression. Depression, that energy-sapping, happiness-stealing frame of mind, is almost certain to visit any athlete who’s been sidelined because of injury. And it will kick you while you’re down. So be prepared to fight back should you find it attacking you. Depression During Martial Athletic Injuries Here are a few reasons injured athletes fall prey to depression:
  • The injury itself: The knowledge that you’re injured is enough to darken your mood.
  • Pain: The chronic pain that accompanies many injuries can wear down your attitude.
  • Months of hard work down the tubes: Inactivity brings atrophy, causing hard-fought gains in physical ability and skill to disappear.

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  • Time: The period needed to recover and return to your former levels can be overwhelming if it stretches to months or even years.
  • Missed opportunities: The goals you’ve set for yourself in competition or personal achievement are suddenly out of reach.
  • Endorphin withdrawal: Your regular workouts have provided you with natural mood-elevating chemicals. Being injured means no workout, and no workout means no endorphins.
Fight Back From Your Martial Athletic Injuries! But enough of the bad news. It’s more beneficial to discuss ways to defeat depression, recover from your martial athletic injuries and get back into training. Here’s how to start:
  • Don’t deny — identify: If you ignore your martial athletic injuries, they won’t go away. And if you’re not impervious to injury, then neither are you immune to depression. You can’t deal with it until you recognize and acknowledge it.
  • Don’t quit: An injured athlete is still an athlete and should act accordingly. You didn’t quit when the workouts got hard, and you won’t quit when your athletic career faces the unexpected challenges that martial athletic injuries and depression present.
  • Take responsibility for your athletic injuries and your response to them: It’s your body, mind, career and injury. You must take responsibility for your healing, and that includes your attitude. Medical professionals have their roles to play, but ultimately the responsibility for health and healing lies with you.
  • Be proactive in your recovery from martial athletic injuries: Regaining a sense of control is mentally therapeutic, so instead of passively waiting for your body to heal, get involved and develop a plan of action.

Form a Plan to Recover From Your Martial Athletic Injuries A blueprint for healing will help you focus on what you can do, as opposed to what you can’t do. It’ll help you direct your energies toward achieving as quick a recovery as possible. Just having a plan will go a long way toward lifting the weight of injury-related depression. Your blueprint should include the following actions: Redefine Your Goals for Recovery From Martial Athletic Injuries Most martial artists are goal oriented and have used that characteristic to reach their current level of health, rank or competition. You should tap into that same power to speed your healing. Set new goals for yourself such as consistently attending rehab or therapy sessions as directed by your doctor. Get Smart! If you’re going to become proactive during the process of healing from your martial athletic injuries, you’ll need to arm yourself with all the information you can get. Study your injury and the schools of thought surrounding it. Learn the treatment options available. Discover which medical professionals in your area specialize in your type of injury. Find out what your body requires to heal and do all you can to provide it. Work Around the Injury Not all martial athletic injuries require bed rest, so ask your doctor what you can and cannot do. Questions about your martial athletic injuries might include the following:
  • If your shoulder is jacked up, can you get in a lower-body workout?
  • If your knee is torqued, can you work your upper body?
  • How can you train around your injury, allowing it the inactivity it needs to heal while still working your uninjured parts?
  • Can you swim or ride a stationary bike?
  • Can you work your abs?
  • What about developing flexibility?
There is much to be said for creative cross-training and the benefits it will bring. You may find that a return to working out, regardless of how strenuous or unconventional it is, creates a new sense of mission, a hedge against atrophy, a productive and positive use of time, and those wonderful endorphins that will elevate your mood. Understand that the regimen of therapy devised by a medical professional is one thing and a workout that allows you to train around your injury is quite another. It’s important to separate them so you can set medically sound goals for the rehab and the training. Continued in "How to Overcome Martial Athletic Injuries (Part 2)." About the Authors: Danny Dring — owner/operator of Living Defense Martial Arts and a seventh-degree black belt who holds dan ranking in five martial arts — and Johnny D. Taylor — a second-degree black belt under Dring — are co-authors of the book Stay in the Fight: A Martial Athlete's Guide to Preventing and Overcoming Injury. Over the course of their martial arts careers, they’ve faced overwhelming odds to recover, maintain and live out the high expectations of a modern-day athlete. Stay in the Fight: A Martial Athlete’s Guide to Preventing and Overcoming Injury is their big-picture guide to martial artists and athletes who are facing or have faced those daunting obstacles, offering a holistic discussion on how to achieve and maintain optimal wellness through a variety of mental, physical and emotional means.
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