September 23, 2017
Erick Mojica B.S Kinesiology
Ahh, there’s nothing like getting a good old bite from the dreadful injury bug. The most frustrating part about undergoing this process is because there is only so much that you can control. Especially as an athlete you are limited to what you can do depending on how severe your injury is. In season or not, you are constantly competing for a spot. With that said, I want to share my thoughts and experiences on this subject.
First off, you have to have your injury addressed by the professionals who can diagnose you and figure out what your short-term and long-term goals should be to return to action. In some cases you deal with soreness and inflammation and have to give the local area some time to rest, usually a pretty easy injury to overcome. But it’s those serious/ nagging injuries that can really put a toll on you not only physically but mentally. I think that it is safe to say that most people eventually experience some of this, and if you never do you are one lucky athlete! None the less, you have to find a strong place within you psychologically to keep pushing forward. Easier said than done right? Well, when you know that you are going to be on the shelf for an extended period of time, you have to be realistic with where you stand through the entire process. Setbacks are tough because it makes it you feel like you are never going to get better. As motivational speaker Eric Thomas says, “A setback is a set up for a comeback!” You have to surround yourself with helpful opinions on where you stand and maintain your motivation and focus towards that comeback goal.
From personal experience, I dealt with a pretty serious back injury that had me questioned to play my senior year. The two doctors that reviewed my MRI revealed a herniated disc in my L4-L5 and L5-S1 area along with Femoral Acetabular Impingement in my right hip; I knew something was wrong when it hurt to sit (Next blog post? Hint Hint).
Both doctors suggested that playing baseball was something that could severely injure me long-term while one of them said that I shouldn’t play at all. Not quite the news that I wanted to hear. The emotions at first were a little confusing. I was obviously frustrated, upset, angry, but what bugged me most was the thought of me even deserving to play in the spring after taking off the entire fall pre-season. All that I could think of was the idea of having to sit out of all of our team’s practices and heavy training sessions. I had enough trouble walking and I had to watch all of my teammates work hard and battle for their spots. For all of my teammates and coaches for that year reading this, I can’t thank you enough for your support.
The reason why this support was so important for me is that I am a very reserved and introverted person. I didn’t want to talk about anything with my injury and this might be the first time that I share this with a lot of you. The first few months of my recovery process was optimistic, sitting out for 6 weeks to fully rest my body. I went through physical therapy and mostly all of my activity was in the trainers’ room. I got to hang out at practice every day and had some positive energy by just getting to be around my teammates. Once the 6 weeks were up, I wasn’t feeling any better and I later found out that my insurance was not going to cover me for any type of available treatments. That’s where it really hit me. As the fall season went on, the frustration hit its peak and I got to the point where there was nothing but hopelessness and negativity going through my mind. The nights became long and sleepless and the motivation to come back was sliding away from me. A form of depression and anxiety took me over not only around baseball but also in my everyday living. It was like a loss of self-identity, not recognizing the person standing in front of the mirror. Crazy how that happened with baseball, right? Well it did because playing the game was everything to me. Competing with my teammates day in and day out, lifting weights, running sprints until my heart exploded out of my chest, all of this was no longer a part of my everyday life. It was really hard to adjust and overcome.
But there was a dim light at the end of the tunnel, and it all changed one morning in my Clinical Kinesiology class. That day we were going over movement assessments and we did a lab where we got into groups and examined each other’s mobility. Since I was having pain in my back and hips I got my hips assessed and what we found was shocking.
When performing a supine dead bug, both of my legs were shifted about 25-30° to my left side. When applying a passive stretch trying to place my legs back to neutral, there was a shooting pain right where my disc injury was. Light bulb? Could it have been Lower-Crossed Syndrome that was causing all of my pain and numbness shooting from my lower back to my right leg?
To briefly explain, according to the National Academy of Sports Medicine, LCS “produces
an increased forward tilt of the pelvis that coincides with an excessive lower-back arch. Holding this static position constantly can create or contribute to muscle imbalances in the pelvic region. Unfortunately, this uneven pull of muscles has effects beyond the lumbo-pelvic-hip complex, strongly influencing the regions above and below as well.” After further evaluation, we determined an identical match with muscle imbalances throughout my lumbo-pelvic hip complex, something that was slightly disregarded with my physical therapy. This isn’t to knock off the people who I worked with because even the best therapists can make mistakes, but this changed everything! From November into the first month of the season, I took a more aggressive approach to my therapy by applying more strength training to my rehab along with working with a chiropractor and my Kinesiology professors at Avila. In the span of four months, I was finally able to get back on the field (with plenty of struggle), but with a complete 180° turn to my mental strength.
Depression and anxiety is a sensitive issue, and I have full sympathy for anyone who has ever dealt with these feelings because in some cases they can be very traumatic. The perception of our own reality differs from everyone else’s and while an athletic injury may not be the worst thing that could happen to someone, I understand the feeling of not being physically capable of playing the game that you love. My point with all of this is that if you ever have these feelings when dealing with an injury you are not alone. I guarantee you that athletes in all sports and at all levels experience this. So keep your head up and keep pushing forward. While you can’t put in the work on the field you can put just as much an effort in your rehab. Work with your doctors and training staff and trust the process. Surround yourself with people who bring positivity in your recovery and know that you will not be on the ground forever. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to play my senior year if I hadn’t been a Kinesiology student for a number of reasons, but I do have to give all the credit to every person who helped me through the entire process. For every health professional, coach, family, teammate, and friend, you helped me through that dark and terrible place in my mind. Although my senior season ended with us having a short postseason run, I walked off of the field for the last time with a smile on my face.
The featured image is the screensaver that I set on my phone from January until the last day of the season. I never shared about my experiences with depression and anxiety until this blog post, so once again, thank you to everyone who was there and helped me through it.