April 7, 2016

Injury Management and College Volleyball Recruiting

In the previous post, there was a mention of how to manage injuries. I wanted to expand upon that topic.

It is important that an athlete (and parents) are able to differentiate between pain and being uncomfortable. An athlete's life is rarely one of perfect health and comfort; you will always have different levels of soreness and aches.

From scrapes and bruises caused by contact with the floor, to sore shoulders, knees, ankles, backs from jumping and attacking, to specific pressure spots still smarting from an old ankle sprain or deep bruise.  Being a zero on the soreness scale is rare.

But, pain is something which must be respected.  And there is a specific feeling which represents pain.  Pain is the body saying stop, and if something is truly painful, then it must be treated by a trainer or doctor.

VolleyFamilies must not turn sore/achy/hurt into the pain definition.  Sure, something may cause a temporary painful feeling, a shoulder may hurt and be sore, knees may ache; these are all symptoms of being an athlete which should be managed with ice, rest, strengthening, diet, etc.

Pain is something which must be addressed immediately.  If you land wrong and feel a sharp pain that lingers.  If you take a swing and there is a shooting pain, if you dive and roll and experience a deep pain - This is your body saying stop.

Because athletes are used to playing with discomfort, we all to often think when the pain goes away as a result of resting, then I am fixed.  This is rarely the case; the pain goes away because the athlete's body is used to such a high level of discomfort, that we interpret a reduction in pain level as being healed.  I have seen too often an athlete who thinks they are OK because they have not done anything physical over the summer, then the 1st week of practice, they have the same injury situation as they had when spring practice ended - Resting is not rehabbing.

The obvious pain situations are easy to discern; knee injury, sprained ankle, torn shoulder.  Everyone knows it is time to see a doctor or start monitored rehab.

I am shining a light on the pain situations that the player/family does not respect, which can turn into extended non-playing rehabilitation or surgery.  That achy shoulder can turn into surgery because the player did not respect the pain when swinging and then begin a rest and rehabilitation routine.  That sore patella tendon can mandate significant time of non-jumping and strengthening, because the player did listen to that small pain when they were hitting.

As I wrote in the previous post, better to take time away from the game to fully rehabilitate from injuries than rush back or 'play through the pain'.  Professional athletes get paid to play through the pain, not club or college volleyball players.  Taking an extra week or month, to ensure the body is fully healed and strong, is not going to hurt your club season or recruiting process.  

Sometimes players/families are worried that if they take time away from the game, the college coach will think they are injured and drop them from the recruiting process.  This is rarely true.  What is worse for the player's recruiting process, is to being playing at 75% of ability because they are playing hurt.  Then the coach is going to rate you at 75% of your ability because this is what the coach sees.  Better to step away for a week or a month, to ensure that the coach is evaluating you at 100% of your ability.

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