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How Getting Hurt Taught Me to Take Care of Myself

By Melvin Gordon | October 15, 2018 | Rally Health

When I got injured playing football for the Chargers, a lot was at stake. My career depended on making a full recovery. But the physical recovery is only one part of the battle. There are mental hurdles that come with injury as well, and you can’t just do rehab exercises with a physical therapist to bounce back emotionally.

Luckily, I’ve always been surrounded by great teammates, friends and family who’ve helped me through my toughest injuries, from a torn meniscus and a sprained PCL to a bone bruise in my knee last season. It’s not always easy to mentally recover, but it is possible. If you’ve been sitting out from a sport you love because of an injury, here’s what I’ve learned:

It’s OK to be scared

I’ve had this happen, and so have other guys on the team: You get injured, and you start having nightmares where you get that same injury again and again, or you’re replaying the game over and over. You just relive that injury, you think of all the situations that could have happened, different ways you could have played, how you could have avoided getting hurt. The fear that you may never play again is always there — and you shouldn’t ignore those feelings. Everyone has those fears, and you can’t pretend to yourself that you aren’t scared.

Pro tip: Get comfortable with being scared and know that it happens to everyone. You don’t want to let that fear control you, but you don’t want to bury it, either. Own that fear and let it out, whether you talk to someone or write it in a journal.

Watch: The Mental Side of Bouncing Back

Learn from your injury

Before I got hurt, I never did “prehab,” things like stretching, eating right, and taking good care of myself. Since getting injured, I’ve started focusing on those things, and while I wouldn’t have wished for injuries, I think they’ve taught me a lot about taking better care of myself, and maybe that will add more years to my career.

Pro tip: If you’re injured right now, think about the ways that you can improve your lifestyle to avoid that injury happening again. Maybe that means eating enough protein so your muscles can recover better and faster, maybe it means doing more yoga so you have better mobility. But use the injury as a learning experience rather than a season killer.

Know that it’s mentally draining

I could sit here and write that I muscled through it, no problem. But everyone who’s had an injury, especially someone like me who’s had multiple injuries, will struggle. It’s not always easy to be positive and stay optimistic. You have thoughts like “I won’t be able to make it back to where I was” or “I’ll never be the player that I want to be.” You have to let those negative thoughts go — they aren’t serving you at all. But it takes a lot of energy to move past them sometimes, so you will get mentally exhausted, the same way you get physically tired going through rehab.

Pro tip: Pay extra attention to your physical recovery when you start feeling emotionally drained. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep, eating healthy foods, and moving as much as you can, doing the physical therapy that you’re supposed to be doing. If you can tell yourself that you’re taking care of your body, it helps you mentally relax as well.

Find your support crew

My parents definitely helped me get through my injuries, and so did a lot of my friends and teammates. My teammates let me know they believed that I would be back and better than ever. You need people like that. There are times you don’t want to talk to anyone, and you’re in this dark place, so you need people who can help you get out of that.

Pro tip: Make sure you can talk to people about how you’re feeling — not just people who will tell you what you want to hear, but people who can really understand what you’re going through and have those harder conversations.

See your injury in a new way

I had to rethink my goals when I got injured, and while that isn’t fun, it gave me a new appreciation for my body. Everything happens for a reason, I feel, and now I’m much more aware of what my body feels like, what I eat, how I train, how I rest. It taught me so much about how my body works. While I’m still not happy that I’ve had these injuries, I know that they could have been a lot worse, and maybe learning this all now is going to prevent me from having a worse injury in the future.

Pro tip: Think about just one positive that came from your injury. Maybe you had more time to spend with your kids, or it forced you and your partner to become closer because you needed more help. You can always find some bright side!

Melvin Gordon is a Rally® Health Ambassador.

Melvin Gordon
Rally Health