Question of the Day

I’m a college freshman, last semester I was one of the top rowers on the team, over winter break I tried to keep in shape but I was having back and knee pain so it was minimal. I came back slightly out of shape but got back into the rhythm. This semester has been a lot more competitive as far as erg scores and recently I’ve been having more knee pain. I’ve been going to the athletic trainer but they’re not 100% sure what it is, but they think it is my meniscus. There are days when I can’t erg because of the pain so I’ve been on the bike. When I do erg my scores are really bad (bad for me). It gets me really frustrated and I’m letting this injury get to me. I get flustered over bad workouts and it kills me inside when I can’t erg. I want my knee to get better, but I don’t want to take time off and fall behind and not make the 1st boat. It’s especially important this year because we’re going to Women’s Henley this summer. Any suggestions on getting over this mental block? (PS I was never told not to erg, so it’s not like I’m working out against what I was told to do.)

I sympathize with being injured and not being able to work out and I get how frustrating it is psychologically when you know you’re capable of performing better but what I don’t and never will understand – and this goes for everyone – is why athletes refuse to take the time off to let their injuries properly heal before they start trying to work out again. What is logical about pushing through an injury, being 50% all season, and then having to take off more time later when you could take the time off now, come back at 90-100%, and be in a much better position to contend for a spot in the top boat? There’s not always going to be an answer for every ache and pain and usually in those situations when the doctor says the best thing you can do for it is to rest, he’s not blowing you off or giving you some bullshit answer. That really is exactly what you need to do. Just because you weren’t told not to erg doesn’t mean you should keep doing it.

If it is your meniscus, being on the bike is just as bad as being on the erg or going for a run. I’ve had a dislocated knee before and have dealt with years of pain as a result. It was always thought that I’d partially torn one of the ligaments and my meniscus but since they were very minimal the doctors said they’d heal themselves and I’d be fine without surgery. The pain started acting up again pretty badly two years ago and I also thought it was my meniscus that was the issue. With all the traveling, walking, stair climbing, getting in and out of boats, etc. that I’d been doing it seemed like a legitimate possibility that I might have irritated it in some way.

When I went to the hospital to have it looked at, the two doctors I spoke with both told me to avoid anything outside of normal activity that could aggravate it further, which included biking since bending my knee (even slightly) was excruciating and it was thought that if I did have a torn meniscus that biking could tear it more if the already-torn flap became caught in the joint (which would then lead to a locking of the knee, which is when the torn part is caught in the joint and doesn’t allow the knee to straighten all the way).

The issue isn’t that you’re letting this injury get to you … the injury is getting to you because you’re not taking any time off. This isn’t a “mental block” situation. You can want your knee to get better all you want but until you suck it up and realize that that means no erging, no biking, no nothing until you figure out exactly what the issue is, you’re going to keep experiencing the same physical and mental pain that you’re dealing with right now. Do you honestly think that you or anyone else is 1st boat material when you’re not 100% anyways? I wouldn’t even consider putting someone in the first 8+ if I knew they were injured, regardless of how minor or severe it was. If you’re not 100% you can’t give 100%, simple as that.

I’ve said this a few times already to other people and I’ll say it again: there are few things within this sport that piss me off more than people who don’t take care of themselves, regardless of whether it’s conscious or not. Why does it irritate me so much? Because it’s not all about you. If one person is injured, the other eight people in your boat all might as well be injured too. Ignoring your injury and thinking you’re “pushing through it” for your teammates is bullshit. Ignoring and pushing through it so you can be in a good boat is even more bullshit. Anyone that needs me to explain why that is should seriously reevaluate your definition of what a team sport and team player is.

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One thought on “Question of the Day

  1. Bree says:

    And it’s so important to allow enough time as well – I did a stress fracture in my second season of rowing, took about 2 weeks off and then jumped back into it. Result I did another stress fracture the next season, missed a regatta, and only after a year of resting it after that season finished am I starting to be able to erg again., and it’s unlikely that my back would hold up to another competitive season. So I REALLY REALLY REALLY recommend that you take the time off – because even if you miss Women’s Henley you will still have a shot at it in future seasons, but if you don’t take the time off you may be forced to quit.

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