Rib Rehab

utah_headRib injuries pop-up fairly frequently in our team.

I crashed hard in October 2011. Despite having to cope with some dark days, I got a lot right with my recovery from that injury.

How do I know how bad I am injured?
If you’ve wrecked yourself then it will become obvious in the 48 hours after impact.

Should I go see a doctor?
You just slammed into the ground — yes, go see a doctor immediately. Get your breathing assessed and consider pain relief if you can’t breathe properly.

How long will it take for me to return to training?
I heard six weeks from everyone around me. I didn’t want to believe it but, in the end, I was out for six weeks.

What’s your advice for me?
I nailed my recovery. Here’s what I did:

  • As an athlete, I wrote off six weeks. I did it gradually. My advice to you is take the pain (of loss) immediately.
  • I gave myself 14 days for a pity party. If it is a proper injury then you’re going to be completely screwed from Day 2 to Day 10. I tried everything (short of opiates) to sleep comfortably. Nothing really worked — I took the pain because my family has a history of addiction and I avoid painkillers. I was advised that this could lead to lung complications (from not breathing properly).
  • After your pity party, take the following four weeks and complete a work project that you’ve been putting off. Chose one thing and get it done. This is far more productive than the OCD-athlete approach of seeking valor by enduring excruciating pain. My project was to write a book for my kids.
  • Use your weekends to be the spouse/father that your partner has dreamed about.

This will position you to train big three to seven weeks out from your key event — which is when it really matters. Of course, I cracked my ribs in that three-to-seven-week window so I had to let go of the rest of that season!

I crashed just before Halloween and was back on top by the following May. When you are injured, a sane recovery protocol seems like an eternity. However, looking back 18 months, the injury is a distant memory.

Be aware that rushing your return to training can lead to lingering issues. I have pals who never gave themselves a chance to heal properly and deal with lingering discomfort.

I’ve seen athletes “successfully” train through the pain of a rib injury. Interestingly, none of the athletes are currently racing.

Choose wisely.

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