Injuries for most athletes are a fact of life and, from my perspective, they are by far the most demoralising and heart breaking things to deal with in my sporting career. I would hazard a guess that most athletes feel the same way. In my short playing career I’ve had many injuries and to a degree accept that it is simply a part of being an athlete. Some have not been so bad: a corky, a light ankle sprain, a pulled muscle lunging or pushing off to the ball and even a couple of concussions (while playing Aussie rules) and these have usually only required a few days off, or a week at worst.
I have had one devastatingly bad injury though. At the Australian Junior Championships in Canberra back when I was 15, I was playing for a spot in the final 16, up 2 sets to love, when in one quick moment, my tournament was derailed by tearing my right adductor. The first thing was the pain, easily the worst I’ve felt on court. Foolishly and maybe showing my age and naiveté, I attempted to finish the game on one leg, so the result was predictable and felt almost as bad as the ache in my leg as I trudged off court. It’s safe to say, tears were shed afterward.
Athletes work so hard leading up to major tournaments, and when an injury strikes, it breaks you and shatters the goals you were aiming for. That injury took four months before I was back playing squash, and knowing what I know now I wish I had taken more time off. In the first two weeks back I lightly strained my left adductor compensating for my right and then ended up badly aggravating my right again, making me take another three months off. I was a textbook case of the over eager athlete, coming back to intense training too soon and paying the price.
The other factor that is sometimes more debilitating than the physical impact of injury is the mental impact it has. You lose motivation to do rehab, frankly it’s boring compared to playing the game you love. You drop off the pace after a long layoff and others overtake you, which is tough to deal with. Living in the moment can pretty much suck when you’re sitting around, unable to do what you love. You need great people around you to ensure you stay positive and have an eye on the long term. Bottom line is it’s down to the athlete though to accept that work needs to be done and do whatever it takes to come back stronger and better. I have nothing but respect for some of the stories that we hear from the AFL where athletes show amazing resilience after debilitating injuries and repeated setbacks.
Since my setback, I have been managing my adductors as well as possible, light strains and aggravations have occurred but thankfully nothing major.
I now work through a solid rehab and prehab program that makes me feel stronger every day. My physiotherapist knows my injury well and helps me strengthen the relevant areas with thoughtful training and a disciplined approach to after training care, something I wish I had been more particular about earlier. If I’ve learned one thing coming up from junior ranks, the intensity of senior squash, and a body that no longer has the resilience of youth, means what you do away from training is just as important as the training itself.
In terms of managing the unavoidable light injury or strain that comes from a full training program, I implement a couple of sure fire ways to make me feel better and RICER is, as always, the tried and true acronym, albeit with my own twist. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation, ROLLING: are the five things I do instantly with any soreness, tightness or light strains. Rolling has become my reliable ‘go-to’ for injury or stiffness management and recovery. I use a foam roller and a hockey ball consistently on any and all sore spots and it works a charm.
The excellent programs and coaching we receive at ESS has reinforced my strong affiliation with rolling for preparation and recovery but it has added an element to my recovery that is now pivotal to my training. The ice bath. Warm and cold recovery after every session has meant I feel sharp every session, even in the middle of an intense period of training in the off season. It seems like a simple idea but since starting at ESS and using this religiously, I have never felt as good as I do.
The key, as the coaches will point out, is that pre-habilitation to avoid injuries is way more effective (and smart) than being forced to cope with, manage and treat injuries after the fact. This is where my program at ESS becomes a vital aspect of my injury (free) life. I was able to talk at length with the coaches at ESS about my injuries and they implement simple progressions for me to strengthen my weaker more injury prone areas so that I am better able to cope with the stresses of training.
When I have a tweak or an emerging issue, their EP is always available to discuss any amendments, additions or deletions from my program. It is a bonus that I can train with confidence under their supervision, knowing that all I need to do is execute, they take care of the worrying.
Currently I’m recovering from a very strange injury where I injured my toe and couldn’t walk on my left foot. I went and got an x ray and thankfully nothing was fractured or broken. Calling my doctor to receive results was an anxious moment, but the weight off my shoulders when I got the all clear was a fantastic feeling. The swelling around my toe is steadily decreasing and I should be back training and playing squash shortly.
Injuries are a part of every athlete’s life. How we prepare to prevent them and cope with them should they occur has a huge impact on our performance. I know that with the program I have now, and the team available to help me through it, my injury rate will drop significantly. That’s what we as athletes want more than anything else, to be free to compete at or near our best as often as possible.
Hi, my name is Tyler Hawkins and I am a professional Squash player. In my short career to date, I’ve had the amazing opportunity train and grow with former world number ones. This lead to my selection as part of the high performance pathway, which in turn, gave me the honour of playing for Australia and also captaining the Victorian team (two memories I will always treasure.)
Join me on my journey to hopefully representing Australia at the Commonwealth Games.