Tadashi wrote a great post last week. If you haven't read it... you should do so. I wanted to expand a bit on this particular point of his post:
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
Smart man huh? I agree 100% that being stronger (before and after an injury) decreases the chance of injury (assuming non-contact), decreases the recovery time and, in some cases, allows an athlete to return to play despite having an "unrepaired" injury. Couple of examples:
Conrad Mann, resident Superhero at SAPT, recently had not one, but two knee replacements in the past year. Guess what? He was already in pretty good shape (100 pound chin up... check out the T-Day lift from 2011) and was quite strong heading into his first surgery. (he came in and trained the day before, both times!) Guess what? He's had an extremely rapid recovery (enough to impress his doctor) and actually started trap bar deadlifting about2 months ago. Need I mention that he's trap bar deadlifting 200 lbs already? His glutes, hamstrings and core were very well developed before surgery which all have helped supported his new knees during the period of learning to move with titanium instead of bones in his legs.
Brett Contreas and Dean Somerset (both of whom were my encouragement after my own back injury to continue to train wisely) are two strength coaches who have had some pretty serious back injuries. Both found exercises that they could do and still create a training effect (aka: getting stronger) as well as incorporated solid rehab techniques mobility and soft tissue work. They also are two brilliant fellows and learned everything they could about what muscles needed to be trained in order to protect their backs when they were able to train more aggressively again, despite the injuries remaining "un-fixed." Thanks to both of them, I learned how to rehab my own back, strengthen my active restraints around my spine and train like a beast again.
Also, I tore both my labrums in my hips (passive restraints) 3 years ago because if stupid training techniques and FAI. What can be cause FAI? Weak glutes, weak anterior core (thus an exaggerated anterior pelvic tilt) and joint laxity. I had all three. Exercises such as squatting when these are present are perfect for cultivating tears in labrums. Well, after 2 years of training, my glutes are stronger, my core is stronger (thank you swings!) and I've worked on joint stability in both my hips and lower back. Guess what? Unless I perform a movement that directly causes my hip to internally rotate, like getting in and out of a car, I pretty much forget that I have torn labrums and I trust that surrounding muscles are strong enough to protect my hips.
Life is rough and injuries happen. But, like Tadashi said, injuries are not the end of the world for an athlete, or even the average Joe (and they're not an excuse to stop working out!!). Get stronger today to prevent injuries tomorrow. And, should something come along that busts you up a bit, figure out how to work around it. You can always strengthen something. If you train wisely, do your rehab and keep striving to get stronger, injuries can be easily overcome.