Training Around Injury

I screwed up my left arm in a judo match about two months ago. Nothing went “pop,” nor was there any obvious sign of injury. About an hour after class a muscle in my forearm started to burn. It lasted a few days, but I didn’t let it bother me much. Because I’m a stubborn asshole, I went back to judo class a week later and had another match.

I could feel the same muscle aching during that second match. Once again, an hour later, it hurt like hell. Any pinching motion with my fingers felt like a hot poker to the forearm. It settled a little, going from burning to aching over the course of a few weeks, right up to and through my black belt test.

With the test coming, I couldn’t stop training altogether. Not a chance. So I trained around the injury. I had no trouble with kata. I had to be careful grabbing and pulling, and I put a pad on my forearm for partner work, but I could do just about anything else in class and practice.

The sophisticated medical device I was given to rehab my arm

Sophisticated medical equipment: a giant, snapped rubber band

Flash forward a few more weeks to today and I saw the athletic trainer at my day job. He diagnosed what I already suspected: tennis elbow. He told me keep doing the stretches I found, then suggested adding ice, massage, and some exercises with a giant chunk of rubber band. I asked him if I could keep training, and he told me to keep working around the injury until it heals up (which, unfortunately, could still be a while).

The key is finding out what you can do. Too many people have a small, nagging injury and declare it couch time. This doesn’t do any good. Can’t run? Do some upper body exercises. Hurt your arm? Run. Hangnail? Suck it up, buttercup.

A back injury may be an exception, but there’s generally a way to work around injury. One of our black belts screwed up her knee, so she did kata from a chair, just working the upper body movements. After her surgery, she did kata while staying in one stance to rehab the knee. It paid off: her doctor was shocked at how quickly she healed.

Succumbing to a small injury is just finding an excuse to skip workouts. Cultivate the opposite and find an excuse to work out, and you’ll be able to accomplish more than you think.

About Mike Oliveri

Mike Oliveri is a writer, martial artist, cigar aficionado, motorcyclist, and family man, but not necessarily in that order. He is currently hard at work on the werewolf noir series The Pack for Evileye Books.

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