No matter what sport you may play, injuries are something that some athletes can never escape. We all know that one teammate or friend who gets hurt every season. Maybe they're injury prone, their technique is bad, or maybe they're simply overworking themselves. As the careers of high-level athletes progress, so does the workload. From middle school to high school, from high school to college, the workload never stops increasing. Year after year, the better you get, the more training you subject your body to, and your risk for injury increases in tandem.
After interviewing many athletes, I began to notice a trend when it came to the issue of injuries. I came to the realization that perhaps over-training and lack of rest are oftentimes overlooked as factors that increase our risk of injury. We get caught up in wanting to be a starter, wanting to be the fastest or the strongest. We all want to win, and it's that very desire that can be of detriment to our health.
When I talked with Erik Spinka, a former World Record holder and U.S. Junior National team member, we discussed the role over-training can play in athletes. Erik suffered a rib break at the end of September, following his return from competing in the 2019 World Junior Rowing Championships.
“As an athlete, you have to expect some substantial injury during your career. It's just what happens when you put your body through intense training every day. I'm glad that— actually I'm not glad it happened. I wish it never happened [laughs]. But I'm glad it happened really early on because now I'll never make a poor judgement call again."
Before I got hurt I was saying like, “Oh, I have this little pain but whatever— I’ll be fine.” I’d advise athletes to bring stuff like that to the attention of their coaches and trainers so they can get on it and make sure it doesn't become something that ends up taking you out for two months like it did me.” -Erik Spinka
Following my conversation with Erik, I interviewed Larkin Brown, who also competed in the World Junior Rowing Championships the year prior, where she earned a Silver Medal for the U.S. Team. She’s currently a sophomore rower at the University of Virginia. At the time of our interview she had been out of commission for nearly a year due to a Labral Tear, & Femoroacetabular Impingement. Here's what she had to say about injuries and her recovery process this past summer after she and other students got sent back home due to Covid-19:
“I think I got really lucky. Because I feel like my coming home this summer was very different compared to normal athletes coming home because I had surgery before I headed back. So I was pretty much on crutches for four weeks after I returned home. It was kind of nice just to have a bit of a break. I mean, because with college, you're naturally going to be practicing a lot more. So it's very easy to get burnt out very quickly. With that being said, I had a good four weeks off where I knew I couldn't row or workout. It was nice not having that pressure of constantly having to train.”
“I think that the break Covid-19 provided was kind of beneficial for me. It worked out really well for me because I was able to heal and fully focus on recovering without having the pressure of having school, trying to get into the top boat, and then also get healed.” -Larkin Brown
So, Why Did They Get Injured?
Larkin was injured as a result of the repetitive movements and actions that are a part of rowing. For Larkin in particular the structure of her bones, deep hip flexion, and constant friction created by rowing resulted in the tearing of her labrum. It should be noted that if Larkin were not a competitive athlete, it's highly likely that her hips never would have been aggravated to the extent of needing surgery.
Erik was injured as a result of over-training, which is something that many athletes do. Many athletes dismiss the small nagging pains, instead of seeking help before it develops into something much more severe. Erik in particular had been training all summer with the U.S. Men's National Team, and then competed in the World Championships that August. As soon as the World Championships ended he had a few days off from training before he started practicing for Princeton's fall season. Those few days off were filled with traveling back from Europe to the United States, as well as the jetlag that accompanied. It is paramount that athletes take a proper break filled with sufficient sleep, and relaxation. Transitioning from one high-volume environment to another is taxing on the mind, body, and the wellbeing of the athlete.
The Washington Post: "Over-training is a real danger, even if you’re not an elite athlete"
Just because injuries happen, doesn't mean we can't take steps to prevent them!
Take care of yourself, both mentally and physically! That way you can achieve as many great things as possible!
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