Friday, December 14, 2012

The Injury Treatment

In a physical game, there are bound to be injuries!

  Injuries are a part of athletics. Unfortunately, over the course of a long season (and an even longer career) they are very difficult to avoid. Whether it's a major injury, or minor bumps and bruises, eventually there will be something you need to give extra attention to, and potentially miss a practice or game for.

  I've had my fair share of bumps and bruises, and a few major injuries along the way. So I thought it might be interesting to think back on the differences in how injuries/illnesses are treated in the various countries I've played in, including the US. 

Inner Voice vs. Outside Voices
  As a competitor, you always have that voice inside of you, urging you to get back on the court. But sometimes that voice is too eager. It's during those moments where it's important to have professionals around you, who you trust, advising you.

  Another aspect is the attitude the people around you have towards injuries/illnesses. What sorts of things are you hearing from management, coaches, fans, etc as you prepare for games? You may get pressures and feelings from influential people that don't necessarily match up with the feelings of the medical staff.

No foul.
  There's nothing worse than feeling you aren't doing what's best for the team, that your personal heath isn't important, or having your toughness questioned.

  For me, some seasons have been more injury-riddled than others. So sometimes you get a little too-familiar with the medical system, and while they're usually great people, get to know your team physio too-well.

  I've always had great medical staffs take care of me and my teammates. From college, and throughout my time in Europe as a pro. I think I've learned something valuable about my body, and how it 'works' from each and every one of them. So I thank you for that!

Ice or Heat?
  One of the most-diverging thoughts between treatment in the US and in Europe has to do with whether to ice or heat an injury. In the US, we ice everything, at all times. In Europe, you will only hear your doctor or trainer tell you to ice if it's within 48 hours of sustaining an injury. Anytime after that, they will tell you to use heat.

  As an American, my first inclination has always been to ice. It took me several years to break that mentality. Now, I think: what am I about to do? If it's to prepare for a practice or game, I heat. If it's after a workout, practice, or game, I ice. You want warm, loose muscles as you prepare to play. And after playing, you might have some aches and pains that icing will help.

Treating the Pain versus Treating the Problem
  After 10 years in Europe, I've found there is a second vastly different treatment belief. I think the people I've worked with in Europe are more concerned with your individual body structure, why something is causing you pain, and how they can cause the pain to stop. They then work with you either through exercise/rehab, or manipulating/adjustment to hopefully make a more-permanent structural change.

  I think in the US we treat the pain first and foremost. Instead of treating what's the root of the problem and what's causing the pain, the why am I feeling pain? We are too quick to ask, how can I cover up the pain, by taking this pill, or getting that shot.

Getting my broken finger attended to.
  After thinking that way for a long time, I am now 100% anti-pill, and anti-shot. We feel pain for a reason. Masking it, does not help. If I have pain, I want to be able to feel it, and make a decision from there.

  I've clearly just made a gross generalization. But it's my personal belief based on my experiences. I obviously have a lot more experiences in Europe, especially as of late. Of course, there are medical professionals in both the US and Europe that don't fit either mold I have just put them into.

Elevated Heart Rate 
  A third difference comes before you ever step foot onto the court. In Europe, you're required to pass a physical before you can compete for your team (it's usually written into your contract).

  Those physicals include an EKG, observing your heart both at rest, and with an elevated heart rate. Since that is what basketball consists of, competing with a raised heart rate, the doctors want to ensure you are fit to do so.

  In the US, I never had my heart tested at an elevated level (that I remember). That practice may have changed in the 10 years I've been competing in Europe, however.

  Here are a few specifics about some of the places I've played: 

Italy - We had a doctor who came on occasion, and a trainer who was at every practice. It was my first experience as a pro, and I quickly learned that it was up to you to get yourself taken care of. They weren't going to check up on you, or make you come in for treatment. You'd just better make sure you were ready to practice and play.

  I didn't have any injury or illness that caused me to miss time during my two seasons in Italy.

Poland - No team doctor. Trainer/massage therapist who was very attentive. I didn't have any issues that caused me to miss practice or game time.

Bosnia - No team doctor, no physio/trainer present at practice. I had a horrible ankle injury in a game in November. The doctor put a cast on me, and said to come back in a several weeks. No rehab, no exercises, nothing.

  After a week of listening to him, I cut the cast off myself because I knew I needed to be doing rehab exercises, and using my leg muscles, if I wanted to come back and play in a reasonable amount of time.

  After another week or so, the doctor wanted to put another cast on me. So I told the team I needed to go home and get it taken care of. I did just that. I didn't play competitively until the following season.

Sweden - No team doctor, no physio/trainer present at practice. We had access to a great physio when treatment was needed. I found that less importance was placed on massage therapy, and more on exercise and rehab exercises.

  If you were sick, even just a little, you did not practice or play.

Germany - No team doctor, no physio/trainer present at practice. I had various injuries in Germany, and two AWESOME physios to take care of me.

  I had a foot injury that caused me to miss almost a month of practices and games. After a few games, and the team started to lose, I felt pressure to play from management; that I needed to play, no matter what.

  With illness, if you were on antibiotics, they told you not to practice.

France - Team physio present for games, but not practice, and access to physio/team doctor throughout the week. I think out of all the countries I've played in, the French are the most-cautious. They are very quick to hold you out of practice for something I would consider minor.

Playing days at CU.
  I think it's important to understand that trainers and doctors are employed by your team. Their job is to get you on the court. And your job is to be on the court. You can imagine that those unified attitudes can get you into trouble on occasion, and you push a little too hard.

  That's where trust comes into play. You have to trust yourself and your body, first and foremost. And you have to trust that your trainer/doctor has your best interest at heart, that they pay no mind to the pressures of winning or losing one particular game.

  I've said it many times before: when it comes down to it, my job is to be ready to play on game day. That may include resting a time or two during the week, to allow those aches and pains to heal up. But I've found that the most important thing to do is to listen to your body!

Your Health First
  As my career has progressed, I have taken on a different attitude towards injuries. Before, I would play at all costs. Maybe I thought I was invincible, and could play through anything. Now, not so much. I am very cognizant about long term implications and effects from playing through injuries. I think that mentality changed about three or four years ago for me.

Always playing with contact.
  And not that I question trainers, doctors, physios now, but if I don't feel comfortable with treatment, or how something feels, I won't hesitate to speak up. Whereas earlier in my career, I would have taken everything at face value, unquestioned for the most part.

  I think that comes from learning more and more about my body each and every year, knowing myself, and truly wanting to do what's best for my health. Instead of years before, where my only concern was: 'what's the quickest way I can get back on the court?'

  Having supportive people, both in management and on the medical staff, is really important when trying to overcome injuries or illnesses, no matter their severity. Having a united front, where everyone believes in the methods, is beneficial to everyone.

  Again, thanks to the many trainers, physios, and doctors who have helped keep me healthy! It really is a team effort.
P.S. I'm knocking on wood throughout this entire blog.


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