At age 14, it all began. I was running around with my brother, chasing his friends, when I slipped and twisted my ankle. Diagnosis: torn ligaments, two. 6 weeks no sports. “Shit. But hey, shit happens sometimes.”
Sometimes became often. Now, 11 years later, I’ve had my fair share of sports injuries: 12 torn ligaments (6 in each ankle), 3 concussions, knee ligament issues, blown out cartilage in my wrist from doing too many pushups, a partially torn quadriceps, the list goes on and on. And, two weeks ago, I added another undisclosed foot injury. In my 9 year lacrosse career, I think I’ve sat out a solid 2–3 years simply with injuries.
Trust me — it sucks. Badly. An injury means hours, days, weeks of effort flushed down the toilet. All those gym session, all those late night practices, all those hours of stupidly throwing balls against a wall and catching them again — just to watch the game you’ve been working hard for from the sideline.
Sports injuries are a curse. They keep coming back, and while you can do a lot of things to become less injury-prone, sometimes you’re just out of luck.
But, as with everything in life, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Even something as being carried off the field can be positive.
What exactly is positive about sitting at home with a cast, with your only way of movement being jumping on one leg until you cramp up?
Good fucking question, mate. Let’s find out:
Lesson #1: The Value of a Healthy Body
“You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”
When you’re healthy, it’s the status quo. You can do anything and everything, and it’s normal. No need to appreciate that, right?
Correct. That is, until you don’t have that mobility anymore. Once you’re in a cast, life becomes substantially more difficult. Showering goes from a quick 5 minute thing to a medium-term project. Grocery shopping for a week? Impossible — unless you have a great flatmate who does it for you. Clearing out your dishwasher requires great levels of balancing and core strength, all your slim fit jeans and chinos become useless, and getting a coffee from the kitchen goes from a no-brainer to a balancing tasks only ballerinas could pull off.
You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to doing all those things again. It’s going to be beautiful — and had I never been injured, I wouldn’t be able to appreciate such little things.
Lesson #2: The Reality of the Permanently Disabled
While we all can possibly imagine how difficult it must be to sit in a wheelchair or be on crutches, it’s a completely thing to actually be in that situation. Everything becomes a lot more difficult, and you need assistance for so many seemingly trivial things.
An injury allows you to take the perspective of someone else’s reality, to understand their needs and struggles.
Lesson #3: Finding Alternative Things To Do
If you’re all about sports, chances are besides your job or studies, you won’t have much more going on in your free time. Between work, gym sessions and team practices, there simply isn’t that much time.
And all the sudden, you’re excluded from these activities. What do you do now?
Injuries force you to pursue other things. For some people, this may mean hardcore netflixing. For me, my injuries led me to join a students organization called “enactus” which ultimately lead me to pursue a career in social entrepreneurship. They led me to write more (I wouldn’t be writing this article right now if my foot was healthy), to read more, and to spend more time with my family.
Being constantly injured allowed me to hedge my identity. Instead of being a lacrosse player, I’m a lacrosse playing entrepreneur, writer, and boyfriend. They constantly face me with the threat of having (a part of) my identity taken away — but by adapting to that threat, I’m more resilient to threats to “who I am”.
Lesson #4: What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger
Being injured always allows you to come back stronger. It is an opportunity to work on your weaknesses, to realize what you really need to focus on.
Without injuries, I wouldn’t be as focused on taking good care of my body as I am now: through stretching, yoga, sleep, nutrition. I’ll hopefully still be using that body for a while, and while it can still take quite the beating in your 20’s, it’s better to start early than late.
Most of all, being injured teaches you that you can come back from any setback — only to surmount even more obstacles thrown your way. Injuries do not weaken you. They make you stronger.
So — do you want to be injured now? If you do — please don’t. I’d kill to be out there on the field tomorrow, next weekend, the weekend after. It sucks to be injured.
But injuries have also made me the person that I am today. Sometimes it’s hard to see the positive things, but every setback creates a chance. And for that, I’m forever grateful.