Let Me Tell You A Story… Jess’ Story
Competing in combative sport conditions you put up with a certain level of pain where you may never be quite sure if it is a warning sign for a future injury or whether it is just something holding back from performing at your peak. Seeking help is not always received well and so when you’re training over 10 hours a week and competing at high level in Tae Kwon Do (TKD) you want to be sure that you are using a team of health professionals that understand your sporting demands so that they don’t unnecessarily stop you from doing what you love. Deeper understanding of how missing out on your sport can affect your world outside of the sport is highly important too. Please join Jess and I on my next “Let Me Tell You A Story” series where I tell you about Jess who overcame a 3 year old hip injury that allowed her to improve her defence, her striking options and ultimately take her to the next level in her Tae Kwon Do career.
WHAT WAS THE ISSUE
- Niggling hip flexor pain.
- Reluctance to seek help due to team perception and poor past experiences.
“Struggling with unknown pain was frustrating as I felt like I could do more if it didn’t hurt so much. My previous experience with physios involved spending half the session explaining the movements, how often and when it hurt was time consuming and I didn’t feel like they understood what and why and received a generic solution. This solution may have worked however I did not have confidence in it due to the lack of clarity during initial sessions. They didn’t understand what I wanted to achieve, lifting twisting and kicking without pain.” This is how Jess sums up her past experiences but I don’t think she is alone, how many people can relate to that?
“It can seem like you’re copping out’” Jess says about seeking care or altering your training to work around injuries in her sport. Jess had been dealing with an off and on again hip injury on her dominant leg that was needed for striking and defending in TKD. “In training we can do 30 kicks in 30 seconds so how many can you do in a 2 hour training session?” she quips when giving me insight into how much work her legs go through in a gruelling training session which are always performed in a Dobok (a traditional thick suit that doesn’t let much sweat out!) and at some point involves you hitting someone and someone hitting you!
Jess has been competing in TKD for 12 years and is a black belt. It’s a sport that Jess found by chance after a family move meant she no longer had access to a gymnastics club but she stuck with the sport because of the community feel about a sport that many do for decades. Jess had recently moved to Sydney and was one of the more senior members on the team and felt the pressure to lead by example. “If the whole team was stretching then I would stretch too even if it hurt my hip” sums up the pressure Jess was feeling. She continues, “it’s important to set an example for the younger people in the team”. Like a lot of athletes, Jess knew this pain just wasn’t right and in line with setting an example for the younger athletes she knew she would need to start managing it. Jess had previously seen physiotherapists who didn’t understand her sport and as she puts it, she “did not have the time nor money to waste on someone who didn’t know what they were doing”. Jess was learning a more dynamic style of TKD since joining the team and she knew her hip wasn’t going to last much longer.
Jess came to find one of our physiotherapists after her team engaged us to perform a physical screen and set up correctives training. Screening can highlight a potential risk for future injury as well as identify movement patterns that may be suboptimal for sport performance. Correctives training looks to create fundamental movement patterns to assist both with injury prevention and better performance.
Jess says, “the screen was good because it compared us against a standard metric which made it independent. Because the coaches had sourced them, it really felt like the whole process was integrated”. In sport, Jess understands that coaches, managers and senior athletes will all have opinions and personal experiences but that injury management needed to be left to the physiotherapists and exercise specialists. Jess had seen enough to be willing to give our physiotherapy department a try, and she knew what good ones looked like because her previous one was now with the national TKD team.
- Quick symptom relief.
- Improved TKD performance.
Being an athlete in tune with her body as well as liking to do her own research, Jess had a good understanding of WHAT was going on but not HOW to fix it. Jess responded well to having a logical and clear plan that took into consideration her ongoing training needs and that she would continue to compete. After the first session Jess recalls thinking “Wow! That didn’t hurt!” upon waking the next morning. After putting up with the hip pain for several years Jess noticed it was present when doing even simple things like getting out of bed and putting on her shoes.
With her pain now gone and the exercise corrections able to take full effect, Jess noticed a sharp improvement in her flexibility and her able to be in control in these ranges- whether it was to do a striking kick or defend a high kick coming at her head! Jess was now able to adapt to this more dynamic style of TKD and consistently perform at this level without any pain. “I can lift my leg so high now it’s crazy” she exclaims. With her senior role in the team she now happy that she can share this positive rehabilitation story and help the younger athletes to manage niggles, rather than feeling that they have to hide it from coaches, so that ultimately their performance improves.