We received the following question in the TWMX.com inbox from Geoff, a faithful TransWorld MX reader…
I recently destroyed my foot riding at Ocotillo. After orthopedic surgery, the final count of hardware is nine screws, four plates, and some bone grafting. Do you have any advice on how to come back “mentally” from injuries?
Sounds rough, Geoff. The long road to recovery after an injury is never any fun. So to help you out with some professional advice, we turned to Team Honda’s Andrew Short.
Andrew tore up his knee last year at Steel City, and after seven long months of recovery, made his return to racing last month in Indianapolis. With three top-ten finishes, and his solid run this past weekend in Detroit, we know Shorty understands how to successfully return from injury. Take it away, Andrew…
I think the biggest thing is going to physical therapy. I was going three times a week, and when I wasn’t at physical therapy I was at the gym working on my upper body. Since I had a knee injury, working on my upper body keep the rest of my body in shape, and both my legs still got a good work out in terms of balance and coordination.
People think when you’re hurt that you’re sitting on the coach the whole time, but I was just as busy as I am when I’m racing. I’m not at the track when I’m hurt, but I’m at therapy, going to the gym, and cycling. It’s almost like a job; if you miss a week of therapy, you’re missing out on that much recovery time. In the case of my knee, if I could get just 10 more degrees of flexion, that was progress. You can’t get back that time.
Start Healthy, Stay Healthy
They healthier you are, the quicker you’re going to recover. So if you’re in good shape before you get hurt, and if you stay in shape while recovering, you’ll heal faster. Just like riding, a lot of your progress during rehab is about how much time and effort you put into it. There’s no magic pill, it just comes down to hard work.
Remember to Rest
I think a lot of it is rest as well. On the days I didn’t work out, I just rested completely. It gives your body time to recover.
Don’t Rush It
I think a lot of riders, especially young amateurs, don’t wait until they’re fully healed before they start riding again. When you come back too soon, you can end up re-injuring yourself, or hurting other parts of your body.
Like with a knee injury, if you come back too soon, you end up riding hesitant. Maybe you don’t put your foot down like you should and you end up crashing and breaking your wrist; that kind of snowball effect. If you really take care of it and get it done right, you can keep injuries from worsening or turning into other problems.
Listen to Your Doctor
Talk to your doctor, he’ll know when you’re ready to come back. Physical therapists can also run tests and tell you when your body is ready.
Nerves Are Part of It
The mental side is just part of it. Before I came back, I was scared that I might not know how to ride anymore. I think if you didn’t feel that, it wouldn’t be natural. It’s something to expect, and if you really love riding, you’ll get back out there.
Take Baby Steps
When I went back riding, I took baby steps. I rode for two months before I raced, but you wouldn’t really call what I was doing “riding” [BRACKET "laughs"]. You’re timing and coordination is going to be off, so just take it slow and test things out.
That’s great advice, Andrew! Geoff, follow Shorty’s recovery tips, talk to your doctor, and we’re sure you’ll be back on your bike and having fun in no time.