I hobbled into A&E having heard a sickening pop. When I finally got to see a doctor, there were two of them.
After a few questions and a feel around the affected leg and hip, the doctor said I had a muscle tear and that I'd be out for two to four weeks. As he left the room, the other doctor hung back to let me know I would be fine to play again with two weeks rest.
Fast forward two weeks rest and I went to play.
What resulted was a reinjury (if I can call it that - I doubt I'd had time to heal enough to re-injure retrospectively) that led to six month without play and a further 18 months of pain and treatment.
I spoke to a friend a few days ago who had recently had what's medically considered a minor abdominal surgery. It had been suggested to her that after a few weeks rest, she could return to her sport - climbing.
Rest is usually only a partial answer.
If tissues (bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments) are damaged, then they require adequate time to heal. Healing, however, isn't enough to bring the tissue back to its post-injury quality.
When tissues don't load bear, they atrophy pretty quickly. If you've ever seen a broken limb fresh out of a cast after six weeks of immobilisation and protection, you will be familiar with how six weeks of inactivity can cause muscle shrinkage. Even the repaired bone, having not yet being used to bear load yet, will be of a different density from the surrounding bone that has years worth of load bearing history.
Muscles are the same in this respect.
In my friend's case, the abdominal wall should heal in the window of time suggested but the muscles a) will generally be weaker from lack of use while recovering and b) will be specifically weaker in the areas where incisions were performed. Is it wise to rest for X number of weeks and then jump back on a climbing wall?
After allowing tissue time to heal, progressing back to activities systematically is the wisest move you can make.
When returning, do so with a reduced intensity and volume of activity. Reduced these parameters in some sort of accordance with the severity of the injury you sustained and how long you have rested for. Longer layoffs make for greater deconditioning of tissues which make for longer progressive comebacks.
Each comeback session you perform without adverse effects can lead to a slightly tougher following session. Crank up either intensity or volume of work in the next session but never both at the same time. It's also fine, even wise in some cases, to occasionally do a few sessions of the same volume and intensity or take a step back in these parameters on the road back to full fitness.
Getting back to your previous levels cannot be rushed and carries an asymmetrical risk. Going a little too slow will do you no harm. Going just a little too fast can have catastrophic effects. A one month rehab can turn into a one year rehab with a little push beyond a realistic pace of progression.
I was 13 when I sustained the injury I wrote about above. I've lived and learned. I hope you can learn from my mistake and any similar ones you may have made too.
How soon can you return to your sport after injury? When you've healed and built your abilities back up to the point of being ready to.
Arton "Better too slow than too fast" Baleci
Float Sting - Sports Injury and Performance Clinic, Harley Street, London W1
P.S. I'm making a visit to Liverpool next week and working with golfers out of Formby Hall Golf Club. Get in touch if you'd like to see me to work on anything injury or performance related.