Recently, Ben has received many questions about injuries. With the season well underway it makes sense that these questions have begun to pop-up. Askren relates this topic to a previous Mental Monday from a few weeks ago, “The Hypocritical Mind”. Every person and every injury is unique and only you know what’s going on with your body and the extent of your injury.
The Art of Rehabilitation
Certain injuries if you wrestle through them or continue to push, you are only going to make them worse. You have to be able to think critically and determine what is best for you. Sometimes, you need to rest and prepare for the future instead of pushing through an injury. Some coaches may resist resting their athlete. It takes a strong kid to stay resolute and know what they need to do at that point. Throughout his career, especially in college, Askren was lucky enough to have coaches that trusted and believed in him. After the Big 12 tournament his senior year he injured his ribs in the finals. He went to his coach, Brian Smith, and said “I can win the nationals out of shape and not practicing, I can’t win the nationals if I’m hurt this bad.” Coach Smith said “Ok, do whatever you need to do.” and so for the entire time leading up to the national tournament Ben just allowed himself to rest and heal. He was able to do some biking to stay in shape but he stayed off the mat. It was exactly what he needed and thankfully Coach Smith had the faith in him to believe he was telling the truth about his injury. Had Ben not taken the time to heal it was unlikely he would have been able to compete at the level he did.
Rest Now Compete Later
Other times there are injuries that are just going to be there. Active competition isn’t going to make them any worse. Knowing when to push through something and deal with some pain versus knowing when you need to take time off to heal is crucial. At this point in the high school and college seasons, the state and national tournaments are two and three months away. It’s better to take a week or two off now than try to do so later in the season or trying to compete at a suboptimal level because you are injured.
Recurrent Injury Prevention
At the end of Ben’s sophomore year of high school, he suffered a neck injury. Overly cautious doctors told him he should stop wrestling. This wasn’t even a thought in his mind. He realized though that this was something that should be taken seriously. At that time wrestling in the fall wasn’t an option. He couldn’t compete even if he wanted to. So, he had a large span of time to heal and recuperate. He spent an extensive amount of that time strengthening and exercising his neck. He believed that if he made his neck strong enough there was a good chance of it not getting re-injured.Take the time to strengthen areas and proactively help prevent future injuries, especially if you are injury prone. The same neck injury reoccurred Ben’s junior year of college. He went through the same process of strengthening his neck and recovering. He has competed for 12 years now and hasn’t had any problems due to the time he spent training his neck
Injuries Aren’t Going Anywhere
Injury will always be a part of a combat sport like wrestling. Be sure to take the proper steps to return as healthy and quickly as possible if you do get injured. That means assessing the extent of the injury and taking time to recover in order to avoid re-injury. This way you can perform at peak performance when it really matters.