On Sunday I was watching the NFL playoffs at a local sports bar. In the fourth quarter of the Redskins-Seahawks game we all watched in horror as rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III fell to the ground with a serious knee injury. The whole room filled with Redskins fans fell silent with an overwhelming sense of devastation. Then the silence was replaced with frustrated murmurs and angry comments.
“Coach Shanahan shoulda taken him out in the 3rd!”
“Why was he even on the field?!”
Being a Skins fan myself I can understand the frustration. However there was one comment that cut across the room that really… irked me.
“Well that’s it man, there goes his career. He’s done.”
Hrm...I disagree. I heard the same comments uttered last season when it looked like Adrian Peterson’s knee imploded. Over the next year he had surgery, did his rehab, and got back in the game as if he never skipped a day. Sports are brutal and athletes get hurt, but they can come back. Peyton Manning is another example. After having a level of his cervical vertabrae fused together he returned to help bring his new team to the playoffs.
One of my biggest inspirations is Ted Toalston, a competitive powerlifter in the 198 weight class. In 2011 he suffered a very severe lumbar herniation and underwent spine surgery. Since then he has been smart and consistent in his training, making his return to the platform with a performance that qualified him for the world championships. At the WPC World Championship he pulled off a 705lb squat, 479lb bench, and 650lb deadlift. He listens to his body, does his mobility work, takes care of soft tissue restrictions, trains hard, and trains smart. This is all within a year's time, and I’m pretty sure the bulk of it was spent taking all the right steps to recovery and return, not face-palming at home thinking “there goes my career…”
A lot of their success boils down to their goal-oriented attitude. If these athletes thought, “well, there goes my career,” there would be no point of aggressively attacking the rehab process and doing everything they need to do to get back into the game. If there is something they need to do to get better they will find out what it is and they will do it. The work ethic that helped them become great athletes in the first place is the same work ethic that will get them from injured to playing, and I think it is something we can all learn from and be inspired by.
Another aspect that all of these athletes have in common is that they were strong before the injury occurred. If you are a healthy competitive athlete, you have NOTHING to lose by getting stronger. The stronger you can make your active restraints (muscles) the more protection you build around your passive structures (ligaments/tendons/bones). Just ask DeJuan Blair, center for the San Antonio Spurs, who has no choice but to depend on his quadriceps and hamstrings to stabilize his knee. Why? Because he actually has no ACLs. Both of his ACLs were operated on when he was in high school, but the surgery was not successful in repairing the ligaments and the remaining scar tissue was re-absorbed. If his lower body musculature didn’t pick up the slack for this missing ligament, I’d take a wild guess and say he wouldn’t be playing professional basketball. Or any basketball.
Building the strength in all the right places will also build confidence coming back from an injury. As Adrian Peterson rushes down the field breaking tackles and making cuts he’s probably not thinking, “I sure hope this new ACL stays in one piece on this play.” Subconsciously I know he’s thinking “I’m sure glad I have enough control in my glutes to keep my knee tracking properly and my hamstrings are strong enough to prevent anterior translation of my tibia!” Sounds like something he would say.
The same can be said about a strong core. You should build up the strength in your abs, lower back and glutes to the point where you are confident in the muscular stiffness you can create around your spine, and not simply pray that you have enough structural integrity in the passive structures in your back as you unrack a heavy weight. Whether you are hurt or healthy, there no reason why you shouldn't strive to be stronger and more confident.
The Redskins had a tremendous season, and I am looking forward to the return of RGIII. To the pessimistic fan that thinks all is lost for the young quarterback:
“Strength is never a weakness” -Mark Bell
“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t- you’re right.” -Henry Ford