Thursday, 21 June 2018

The Gift of Injury: Book Bucket List

A professional I follow, fellow Canadian and world wide leader in spine and back mechanics and understanding, is Dr. Stuart McGill.  He recently came out with a book called, "The Gift of Injury" he co-wrote with one of his clients, Brian Carroll.

I haven't read the book yet, but it is high on my "Book Bucket List" without a doubt.  Just the title alone (aside from the amazing content I hear about) catches me, as it's something I'm experiencing myself.

I've been a lifelong soccer player (literally). I've played the game for 32 years now, since I was 4-years old, including the regional level (the former CSL) and college level (OCAA).  It has always been my biggest passion.  In addition to playing, I was a referee for a couple years, and enjoyed coaching for 21-years.

However, since 2009 I have been plagued by recurring hamstring strains.  To the point where retirement has been contemplated several times since turning 30yrs old. Some seasons unfortunately were knocked down to a handful of games, combined with pain, frustration, anger, and a whole host of emotions athletes feel when they can't play the game they love.

As a Fitness Coach I couldn't figure it out, which then of course made me question my own knowledge at times.  Every year brought new research, new findings into what maybe is the root cause of my injuries, and gearing my training towards being able to play pain free and reduce the risk of re-injury.  Every year when I thought I found the solution, I was disappointed once again. I saw multiple professionals;  Athletic Therapist, Physiotherapist, Massage Therapist, Osteopath.... But none seemed to get to the root cause.

To make a long story short, even last season, playing my first season in "old timers soccer" (35yrs and up) and strained my hamstring and my season was over.  I went to my doctor (who is also a sports medicine doctor) to see if I'm doing any permanent damage and if retirement should be considered.  We had an incredible conversation, and he told me there was no permanent damage being done and that he highly recommends playing as long as I can.  He recommended seeing another professional to help; chiropractor, physio etc... but to approach my training holistically, as a whole, rather than focusing on one particular issue.  Prepare the body (and mind) to play.  We discussed how when athletes stop doing the sport they love (for whatever reason), that's when health issues can arise. So it's important to do what you love, as long as you can.

From there, I began to consider chiropractic help (which I've always been leary about my whole career through experiences with clients). Thankfully, a client of mine (whom I've known for many years) is a Chiropractor (Sean Girduckis of Bridge Street Chiropractic in Belleville, ON). He and I had a great conversation in what my chronic issue was (which he knew right away and was not too concerned), but also discussed his approach to his practice.  I loved it. I loved his explanation and his mindset when it came to his practice, and better yet, it was a great reminder to not judge a profession on "the bad ones".  Just like any profession, there's good practitioners and not so good practitioners. But it doesn't necessarily mean the practice is bad itself.

With his help, my client has helped me get back to loving the game, enjoying playing full time again, and playing without fear of injury or playing through discomfort.  Granted we're early in the season, and I have 9-years of injury to rehab, but so far (knock on wood), it's been a great start to the season.  In the past handful of seasons, playing 40min a game would be a "personal win" for me without pain, discomfort or injury.  This season, I'm playing 70-80min a game and feeling fantastic! In addition, my workouts have been positively impacted as well.  Not only because I have no discomfort, imbalances etc, but also because my body is responding as it should.  Muscles that are being targeted, are being worked and felt as they should (unlike my years during injury). Meaning, my workouts are having a much more positive impact on my strength, endurance etc.

Let me just say that it's made such a difference, that at 36 years old, after a game, when I get out of the car back at home, I feel like I can play another one!  I had forgotten this feeling.   For 8-9 years leading up to this season, I would get out of the car after a game, and literally hobble into the house,  immediately feeling fatigue, soreness etc... Proving that we have gotten to the root of the problem.

So why tell you all this? What's my point?  Well I have a few.....

  1. For the first time I'm looking at my history of the same injury issue in a different way.  It's now not the cause of potential retirement, but instead it was a learning experience.  Granted, a much too long one.  But without the injury, I couldn't have learned so much about the lower back and hip region, rehab practices etc... 
  2. It's re-confirmed my "team approach" to health.  I've always believed that there is a place for doctors, naturopaths, physios, fitness coaches etc... Having a few professionals working to help you gives a greater chance for success.  
  3. Like in all professions, there are good and bad professionals. Find one you trust and you're comfortable with.  
**Since drafting this post a couple days ago, I played my fourth game of the season which was our toughest yet (more like a first division game);  higher pace, hard tackles, hard runs, lots of work.  I played 85min that night.  Again - for too many years before this season, this wouldn't even be possible physically due to pain, discomfort and/or injury. **