Rest, Healing, and Playing Through the Pain
Through the years, we’ve heard it in almost every walk of life that employs repetitive action, concentration, and/or high impact collisions – suck it up…play through the pain. We glorified NFL players who returned to the game with broken ribs and trained at the local bar. We’ve applauded athletes who never take a break, boxers who develop a jaw by getting it hit, hard and often. Get out there and practice, practice, practice…play, play, play – stay in the groove, we used to say. You’ll shake it off by morning.
Now we know better. What you shake off by morning, you may not be able to shake off by the next decade. Anyone who hits anything, with finesse or otherwise, pianists hammering away at Rachmaninoff Sonatas, computer slaves who hammer lightly away for too many hours, days, years, and golfers who slug it out with the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, are slowly falling apart. For the golfers, it’s a growing concern, because it’s a growing group of tours, and a growing group of pressures.
It’s only a little ball, and modern drivers are so expertly made that we can instantly feel the sweet spot with good contact. But, when you really look at what it is, it’s a high-speed collision between a densely packed sphere and a hunk of metal, with the only shock absorber being a five to six foot tall mass of human flesh, particularly in the arms and wrists. While the ball sails hundreds of yards, and we “ooh” and “ah!” the body that hit it is shivering and quaking from the shock wave. Do it thousands of times in a short schedule, and you’re absorbing an awful lot of direct hits.
Lydia Ko, the masterful young LPGA star, is now seventeen in the manner of today’s players, she’s taking health seriously, even moving from the large-frame glasses that distort at the outer edges, to contacts that conform to the eye. Equally important, however, she’s gauging how many of these collisions she wants to endure in a given time, and is pacing it with care. To start dealing with wrist surgeries at the age of seventeen is just downright sad, and that appeared to be her fate before coming across less invasive ways of saving the precious muscle, bone, and tendons that produce power and finesse. In partnership with that treatment, which she found in Korea, is intermittent rest. She knows that golf is not, despite its gracious and graceful external demeanor, a low-injury or a low-impact game.
Fans aren’t always part of the solution. Players who understand the value of their own health, financially and in terms of life quality, are beginning to take the time they need for recouping, consulting high level medical experts, and holding out for maximum results. Impatient fans may call Tiger, Lydia, or Michelle for sitting things out “wimps if they life, but few of us could possibly know what is really going on medically, or what it is they are trying to avoid by being careful. We who play on the weekends may get sore wrists and arms as well, but if we can wait until we feel well, all the more reason thoroughbred players have to take care of themselves.
We haven’t seen Michelle Wie for a little while, but we will when she’s good and ready. None of these players owe us their health, and they live in a wised-up generation of sports science, medicine, and nutrition. Nobody goes back in with a broken rib anymore, unless they slip by the team doctors, and tour pros aren’t going to waste their gold at the driving range.