Injury Blues

Last week I injured my shoulder whilst training in martial arts. Yeah, I know…if I’m going to play silly games I should expect things like that to happen! My first emotion was anger. Anger about the way it happened, who was to blame, “I should have known better”, etc. This got me thinking about the mental aspects of injury.

In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross released a groundbreaking¬† book called “On Death and Dying”. It included a model which described the process by which people coped and dealt with grief and tragedy. Tragedies such as being diagnosed with a terminal illness. She defined 5 stages:

  • Denial
  • Anger
  • Bargaining
  • Depression
  • Acceptance

Interestingly, she later discovered that this process also applied to other forms of loss such as; the loss of a job, the end of a relationship, injury, etc. Although there are 5 stages, not everyone goes through all of them. Also, the order is not necessarily as shown above and people can dip in and out of a particular stage.

Athina Markou and Karen Wager-Smith have recently postulated that severe stress and adverse life events can lead to neurobiological processes that physically alter the brain. They believe this is an adaptive response and that it is accompanied by wound healing mechanisms such as inflammation. Certain neurons die, others sprout, change shape and make new connections as the brain rewires itself.

With injuries, the sooner we reach acceptance, the sooner we can start to work on the road to physical recovery. Fortunately for me, my injury isn”t serious and so, it didn’t take long to “get my head around it” and reach acceptance. I’d like to share with you something that really helped me. It’s a video documentary of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master Braulio Estima.

Braulio Estima Road to ADCC Episode 4 – YouTube

It’s a wonderful illustration of how adversity can be faced with courage…and the miracles that can be achieved with belief, determination and perseverance.