Tuesday, 13 November 2018

"Cover your ears and do what is working": A rant

Exactly 3-months ago today, I fractured my right ankle.  For regular readers or visitors of my blog (or those who know me), you know this and I will spare you the details again.  However, I will remind everyone it was my worst injury to date (thankfully it was a minor fracture - I can't imagine worse), and it was the longest rehab process I've personally been through.

Fitting that today, exactly 3-months later I can happily say that I am getting stronger again, I've been playing hockey for 3-weeks now (5 skates to date), and today I ran 2km with a steady pace and zero discomfort.  YES!!! I've been progressively doing more, and slowly pushing things but now I am ready to push harder without a doubt.

Here's the thing;  I have lots of people who care about my health, which is great. But WAY TOO OFTEN throughout this rehab process was I stressed out, frustrated and simply fed up with some of the unsolicited, "helpful advice". I will say this for all injured people down the road.I have a great piece of advice for you so you don't lose your mind:

Cover your ears and do what is working!!!!  

***********WARNING - RANT AHEAD......************

I honestly have been fighting with myself if I should write this or not. But since it is STILL in my head at the end of the rehab process, I feel it's needed (for my own sake). Never have I had to deal with so much frustration during the healing process from an injury. Maybe because I never had one that took so long, I don't know, but it was BAD.  I also feel I need to post this to help people realize that when it comes to someone's health, you really need to be aware that what you say can have more of an impact than you realize.  

An injury causes some natural depression and negativity for the injured person, so truly the last thing needed is more negativity, "unsolicited advice", more "doctors" than the one you are actually working with etc... To make it worse from my end, I'm an experienced Fitness Professional with 17 years in the industry.  I've dealt with everyone from 10yr olds, to 80 yr olds, from amateur to elite athletes and yes, even injured people.  I've worked so many times in conjunction with physios, athletic therapists, osteopaths, massage therapists and doctors for a variety of injuries and conditions over the years I've done this, in order to help people regain their strength, lifestyle and fitness.  In addition to my profession and my experience working with these other health professionals, I was also (from the very next day after my injury happened) working with an Athletic Therapist AND a Physician.  So by my count, that's 3 health professionals treating the injury.  Seems reasonable doesn't it? I thought so. 

Apparently some people didn't think so .... they had "much better advice" for me (regardless of whether I wanted it). 

*I had more than one person compare my minor avulsion fracture with their past or recent ankle injuries; some which required surgery they were so bad.  However, in none of these cases were any of their injuries the same as mine! And in others, the mechanism of injury was even different! I don't know how many times I said the words "but I have a different injury" .... but I guess it fell on deaf ears.

*More than once I had people question the doctor's advice that I was getting.  Not only is he a doctor, he was also an OHL team doctor for nearly a decade, and is a friend and client.  I'm pretty sure he won't steer me wrong! 

*The looks from some people that I would get when they would ask about my healing process, rehab exercises etc was shocking.  As if my Athletic Therapist and Doctor were both not right in what they were suggesting! Seriously??

*Despite the doctor saying I needed to immobilize the joint for 3-weeks, and then can slowly begin rehabilitation, most likely without needing a second x-ray (unless my healing started to regress), it was suggested I maybe should get a second x-ray and that maybe surgery is the "best option".  Not kidding (can you see why I was and why I STILL am frustrated by this??)

*Once my boot was off, I had swelling still in and around the joint. I had several people "kind enough" to point that out to me. Some of whom would express their concern that it "just wasn't right". They would also "kindly point out" that I was limping.  Hmmm... limping on an ankle and leg that's been immobilized for 3-weeks... "that IS weird"!! (100% sarcasm here as I vent)
The doctor and therapist's advice:  "It's all part of the healing process. Don't worry."  

*I did my weekly treatments and exercises as per my athletic therapist's instructions and was fully confident in her assessments and advice along the way.  When I was ready to try to skate again, as per her giving me the "green light" to try it, those same skeptics would give me looks or the "oh I'm not sure that's a good idea" line.  I'd like to mention here that my athletic therapist (that I hired at my studio) who treated me, is also the therapist with one of our local junior hockey teams.  So if anyone will know when I am ready to return to play (especially for hockey), it's her (and me since it's my body)! 


Welcome to what I dealt with each week, for approximately two and a half months of healing and rehab.  Sadly, there were actually a few days where they would get me so worked up, I actually started to doubt my progress as well.  Thankfully, my doctor and therapist would mentally get me back on track and reassure me that we're on the right path, and I'm doing all the right things.  

I had a couple simple goals that I was determined to follow throughout my healing:

1) Immobilize as recommended for the 3-weeks I was told.  No questions asked.  As much as that sucked! 

2) Once rehab began, besides doing as I was told, my goal was just consistent forward progress. It didn't matter how big or small of progressions we got week to week, just don't regress at any point.  

I hit every goal I set.  Each week during rehab, I'd be given new things to do and work on, and those were my weekly goals.  My Athletic Therapist would say what the plan was for next week, or where she wanted me to be at the next time I saw her... and I took that as my motivation; and hit it every time! 

I am truly thankful for those two professionals who were there to guide and treat me along the way.  They were amazing, and obviously they were bang on with their advice and guidance. Despite what others suggested throughout the journey at times.  I am also thankful for those who took a different approach in their discussions with me. These people....   

.... would simply ask, "How's the ankle doing?". So I'd fill them in.  They'd ask about some of the rehab process or what the next step is and they'd either empathize with me, or they'd leave it at that.  They didn't give unsolicited "advice". They didn't try to be a "doctor" that they're not. They were understanding of how brutal of a time it was for me, personally and they were simply supportive and hopeful that my healing would over soon.   

I am grateful for my two professionals and grateful for these people.  And might I add, my wife and kids who were amazingly supportive during the process. I am also thankful (kind of) for those people who gave their "medical advice" during this time.  Because they helped me realize another side of injuries and the rehab process that you can't learn in school, or maybe even from working together with another health professional. You have to learn it yourself..... 

Other people, can mentally bring you down and have you second guessing yourself, your health team and your body's ability to heal following an injury.  They don't make it easier. They are NOT being helpful.  And it's incredibly important to find a group of people who will be helpful, supportive and positive (in a realistic way) throughout your healing.  Honestly. I have never felt so strongly about something and it may be one of the greatest lessons of my career so far. 

When you are with someone who is dealing with an injury or condition, here's some good advice;

Support them. 
Be realistic, yet positive at the same time. 
If you are not a health professional, do not try to be one. 
If they don't ask for your advice, keep it to yourself. 
You may have had an injury to that same joint or muscle, but it doesn't mean it's the same. 
Every person is different. Every injury is different. 
Your words or "advice" can make things worse for the injured person. 


****************Rant done***************