Injured or hurt?

There there are few more “touchy” subjects among coaches than dealing with an “injured” or “hurt” player. In professional environments a Head Coach may have a group of trusted advisors – be that Biokineticists, Physiotherapists and masseurs who can provide clarity on any particular injury and the rest and recovery needed for full rehabilitation. In more amateur environments this objectivity can quickly turn to subjectivity as the player controls his desire to play or not play as well as the less qualified coach making his mind up of what he determines is fit or unfit to play. Here are some guidelines to consider to make this period as valuable and beneficial for all parties.
[[upme_private] I recently read a book by Rob Roy named The Navy Seal Art of War. As the title suggests he is a former Navy Seal and now leadership consultant. As the commander of Navy Seal Team 5 and being challenged in as rugged and challenging environments as is humanly possible he provides insight into this particular subject. His theory – although very simple – is are you injured or are you hurt? These two words are not to be confused. The distinction between the two is if you injured – “you are out”, if you are hurting – “you play on”. His advice on the subject, “If you are hurting, you feel pain, you are uncomfortable, the difference is that you can still perform if you are hurt. You can play through the pain, walk it off, get back up, keep going”. Injured then means you are “done, out, sidelined. You need treatment and time to heal in order to successfully recover”. His final comment on the subject, “If you quit every time you feel pain you will never succeed at anything, but if you are truly injured and you have to leave the arena, you are someone who went down fighting.”

So how do you manage these two spaces effectively enough in order to make the best possible decision for the individual and the team?

Drawing a distinction between the two with the players prior to the season is a very important factor. Once a player buys in to the definition of each of these he can then make a much more informed decision as to which category he fits and thus so can the coach. This provides clarity in both parties mind and provides congruence and informed decision making.

If “hurt”, the player knows he can still make a performance despite the external factors. Flashbacks to some of the world’s greatest ever innings such as Steve Waugh’s broken ribs in the West Indies, Dean Jones’s dehydration, and more recently Graeme Smith’s broken hand and Michael Clarkes barrage in Centurion a few seasons ago show what is capable of a “hurt” player. What these players do successfully is mentally engage their resilience and bring their best to the situation, and in doing so gain respect in and out of the team.

The “injured” player must seek professional help as soon as is possible. This can not only bring a quicker recovery but also clarity on what the problem exactly is to avoid speculation which often takes hold during this period. It is the professionals opinion that one must take into consideration and once a course of action has been prescribed it can then be planned with the coach and the player. In ideal situations specialists in the area of concern should be consulted. For example, if a fast bowler is struggling with a back injury it is best to see someone who has complete understanding of the region to provide his diagnosis and expertise.

Having said this, there have been many occasions recently where specific players have received 3 completely differing opinions from professionals sliding on the scale of “Manage the injury but continue to play – to take a rest for a few weeks to recover – to completely out and surgery must be done immediately”. This paints a blurry picture for the athlete and the coach and ultimately puts all parties in a compromised position.

Speaking to some experts in the field on this they agree with Rob Roy’s assessment and urge players to know the distinct difference between hurt and injury. A fast bowler is often not at 100 percent each time he takes the field but can perform through niggles and smart load management. If there is something more serious at play, then take a cautious approach as this can be career affecting in the short and long term.

In conclusion, the advice given is to get your athlete to know himself and develop awareness of his body to diagnose the hurt or injury as accurately as possible and on the different side of the same coin, as a coach, know your athlete, his personality, his defaults and characteristics as well as his body too in order to achieve the best possible results both presently and in the future.[/upme_private]]