It's easy for young athletes to get discouraged when they're forced to sit and watch from the bench after an injury. The risks of coming back too soon are well known. But taking too much time off can also be dangerous, since excessive inactivity increases the risk of re-injury once you are cleared to play.
When New York Mets All-Star third baseman David Wright collided with the massive Astros outfielder Carlos Lee in May, he suffered a lumbar vertebral pars fracture that put him on the shelf for two months. In his eight-year career, Wright had made only one previous trip to the DL , following a fastball to the head from San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain in 2009.
Wright works with AthLEAN-X system founder Jeff Cavaliere in the off-season. Now that the Mets 3B has worked his way back into solid form, Cavaliere has a few pieces of advice for any athlete looking to come back from an injury.
Don't Rush and Be a Hero
It's bad enough to be injured. But getting re-injured is worse. So, don't rush the process and try to be a hero. "Bones take six to eight weeks to heal," says Cavaliere. "And after suffering an ACL tear, it'll be at least a full six months before the attachments are at full strength."
It takes even longer for proprioception to return. "In layman's terms, proprioception is the body's awareness of a joint's position in space," says Cavaliere. "You could close your eyes and still be able to 'feel' where your arms are in relation to your body." Total recovery, including the return of proprioception, can take even longer than what the team doctor recommends.
Rest is as Important as Rehab
Every athlete has learned to focus on actions, so sometimes the hardest part of injury recovery is taking time off from working out. "The stimulus for recovery comes from what is done in the training room," says Cavaliere, "but the repair comes when the body has a chance to relax." Rehab will strengthen the area around the injured body part, but it won't fix the injury. That only comes from rest.
Check back later this week for Part II of this series.
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock