It is common knowledge that injuries to sport are like thorns to roses. Everyone, be it the player, parent, fan or coach knows they exist and are painful. From a personal view, I’ve decided to dissect injuries and split them into two categories which I have named: the Riddled and the Radical.
The Riddled athlete is the one with a new sprain as soon as the last one has healed. They roll ankles, pull hamstrings, and have tendinitis in their wrists. They are minor injuries, but legitimate ones because the athlete is not in perfect shape and cannot compete to their full ability. The Riddled is chained to the underachiever fence; not by choice or by personal shortcomings, but by physical limitations. The Riddled is required to exchange from capitalizing at the tournaments to capitalizing on that open Friday night spot with the chiropractor. From climbing the rankings to watching the hard earned ranking points expire. Some say that the injured are “potential unlocked”, but the unlocked players are the ones competing on the circuit that are trying their keys and haven’t found the right ones. In opposition, the Riddled don’t even own any keys! There are the Riddled who go and compete anyway; knowing full well that they are not at their best physically and apply the “mind over matter” concept. They are also the ones best friends with the weekly tournament physiotherapist and with frostbite on their calf, shoulder, bum, etc. These warriors may be the first seed who gets deep into the draw or the Wild Card who loses first round; but either way, a worsened injury and a bruised ego are the end results. Fact of the matter is that I don’t know of anyone on the Circuit who is playing for the sole purpose to get good exercise, meet new friends, or get a few shades darker. Every athlete is out there trying to breakthrough, reach their potential and put money in their pockets. To do that, you must be peaking mentally, tactically, technically, and physically. When a piece of the puzzle has gone astray, it can be very disappointing; especially when it’s as trivial as a sprained ankle. You have to be your own boss and know when to bite the bullet. Consequently, sometimes that means staying at home, nursing the injury, and practicing your breathing and visualization techniques.
The Radical is the athlete with a major injury, one that threatens the career directly. This can come in the shape of a torn rotator cuff, a torn meniscus, an illness, or an accident. While these hardships may only just derail the athlete for a specified amount of time, the ghost of ‘Career Vanished’ certainly pays them a visit. In retrospect, Riddled injuries certainly threaten the career but in a passive, indirect way across a longer period of time. To better explain my Riddle and Radical theory, I will use a tree as a metaphor. The athlete is the majestic oak tree specimen, with a great foundation and a solid, sound trunk. The small axe is the little injuries of the Riddled, chipping away at the trunk. The tree does not see the immediate threat of the axe and continues to feel invincible. The Radical injury is the roaring chainsaw that is taken to the tree. Danger is imminent and alarm bells reverberate throughout its branches. The tree experiences the fear of its trunk being severed and in the athlete; the fear of their athletic career being severed.
I, unfortunately, happen to be the one who gets more injuries than your average Josephine. I have had strains, sprains, twists, pulls, and any other gravitational force that could have had a negative impact on a body. These sidelined me for a day, week, or even months: a classic Riddled athlete. Oddly enough, I considered myself blessed. Injuries gravitated to me like Galileo to planets, but I was never a Radical. Taking my story to the present, it is hard to ignore the cast that runs from my toes to my right knee. I have officially become a Radical. Although I now harbor memberships from both clubs, my optimism for my potential as an athlete or as a human has not been sacrificed. I take a page from the Chinese: who use the character for the word ‘challenge’, as the same one that they use for the word ‘opportunity’. My intentions are to return stronger and better but even if my career changes because of an injury/injuries or other circumstance, it is one individual chapter in a continuing novel. So whether you are a Riddle or a Radical, or both, the story of your life is still yours to write.