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My Best Advice for Injured Athletes

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Written By
Xan Barksdale

I get a version of this message sent to me about 5-6 times per month…

“My son hurt his ______, what should he do?”

or,

“How long should it take my son to recover from XXX injury/surgery/procedure?”

Disclaimer: I’m no doctor, nor do I play one on TV…but, I do have an extensive history of dealing with injures both from my playing and coaching career.

As a player I tore my ACL my junior year in high school, and also suffered many nagging injuries throughout my professional career like pulled obliques, shin splints, concussions, shoulder and elbow soreness, etc.

In my decade + coaching at the Division I college and many other amateur levels I’ve seen almost every type of injury there is: Tommy John, dislocated shoulders, broken bones, immune system deficiencies, exhaustion, and you name whatever else you can think of!

Some players bounce back from injuries better than before while others never seem to get back to 100%.  Why is that?  Here are my thoughts…

As I’ve been through, and around, all of these injures I feel like I’m able to give sound advice about how to deal with them.  Although, it’s often times something parents and players don’t want to hear.

If you think that this advice doesn’t apply to you (or your son) or that “you’re the exception to the rule” I’d urge you to stop and really put some deep thought into it.  There’s a very good chance that you could be doing more harm than good if you don’t follow this advice…

Step 1: Consult a Qualified Professional

Depending on the type/severity of the injury this could be very different.

If it’s a minor injury you very well may be in great care with a Certified Athletic Trainer.  If it’s more serious, you may need to consult with an orthopedic surgeon.

I can’t tell you exactly who to speak to, but I can tell you that it’s not “some guy on the Internet.”

If you send me a direct message on Twitter asking me about your son’s “knees that have been killing him” I can’t offer you any good advice other than to go see someone qualified and let them take a look.  Neither can any other social media coach/trainer/etc.

Do not take this lightly.

Go visit a doctor!

Step 2: Get a Second Opinion if You Feel like You Need One

If you really don’t like the advice of the first professional you visited, get a second opinion.

There’s a very good chance that you’ll get the same result, but it may make you feel better to consult with a different doctor that you might have heard good things about.

If you feel like you need a third opinion, you’re probably not going to be happy with the advice that any of the doctors recommend.

This should be a reality check.

Step back and objectively look at the situation…there’s a pretty good chance that the doctors are giving sound advice.

Step 3: Do EXACTLY what They Say to Do

Maybe they recommended that you take time off.

Maybe they recommended surgery.

Maybe they recommended a rehabilitation program.

I don’t know what exactly they’ll recommend, but I do know this…

You should do EXACTLY what they say to do.  No more.  No less.

Do not think that you’re smarter and have a better plan of action.  Do not think that you’re special and can come back in half the time.  Do not think that you should have the same Return To Play program as your favorite pro athlete.

This is where people mess up…

I’ve seen it way too many times.  People try to rush the recovery because they want to make it back for the post season, or they want to be ready for the first game of the year.  Big mistake!

If you’re told to take 6 weeks then do exactly that.

If you’re told that you should do _____ exercise 2X/day then do it twice a day…doing it 5X/day will not make your body heal more quickly.

Athletes that have the best recoveries follow the rehab program to the letter.

Remember, no more, no less…exactly what they tell you to do.

Tip: Learn the Difference between Hurt, Injured, and Fatigued

This is a tricky one, so pay attention…

Most youth athletes (and even some older athletes) are terrible at knowing the difference between being hurt, being injured, and being fatigued.  There’s a big difference!

HURT: You get drilled in the ribs with a fastball.  It hurts.  Nobody likes wearing a heater, but it’s part of baseball.

You’re probably going to get a bruise and there will be discomfort, but you probably don’t need to miss any practice or games because of it.

This is something you just kind of suck up and move on from.

*Obviously, there is a wide spectrum of injuries and I can’t place them all on a continuum.  This is just an example to help you learn the difference.  If you think you may be injured then you should have a medical consultation.

INJURED: You’re running to first base and you come up short with a tight hamstring.  I (as some guy on the Internet) have no way of knowing if he has a slight pull, or if he has a full tear…so, responsibly, I can’t give you any advice.

He may be injured and a professional consultation is in order.

Anything that may be more serious than “hurt” please visit someone in the medical field.

FATIGUED: This is one that players get wrong a lot.  If you played 5 games in a weekend tournament and there is some soreness that’s to be expected…you just put you body through a rigorous 72 hour window.

Fatigue occurs when the body is tired, or slightly overused.  It’s easy to confuse this will being “hurt” or “injured,” but a lot of times you just need rest.

This is when athletes need to have a high level of body awareness, or “Body IQ” as some like to call it.  Start paying attention to how your body feels and responds to high levels of activity.

As you gain experience you’ll learn the difference between “my arm is tired,” and “it feels like something is wrong with my arm.”

Parents, it’s a good idea to have conversations with your child regularly about how they feel to help them gain a better understanding of their body and how it reacts to different situations.

Final Thoughts

A lot of people have gotten upset with me over the years because I refuse to give medical advice through my Twitter DM…sorry, I feel like that’s just the irresponsible thing to do.

Even though I’ve spent my entire life around the game of baseball I have not been to medical school.  Yes, I’ve got a pretty good idea of what injuries are and which procedures are needed to return from them BUT, it would be really dumb of me to think that I can diagnose an injury because of a 4 sentence email that you wrote me about your child getting hurt this past weekend.

Go see someone who actually knows what they’re talking about, and then trust them by following their advice.

Written By
Xan Barksdale

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