Competing While Injured—Just Say No

QandA logoI recently got a letter from a student addressing an injury and a competition: “I sprained my shoulder somehow. Anyway, I haven’t been able to shoot for two weeks (except for a fun shoot), and I don’t think I’ll be able to practice this week either. The Iowa Pro-Am is quickly approaching, so I was wondering how I could get practice in without actually practicing. I’m thinking about using 18 lb limbs for practice, but I’m still afraid that it might be too much for my shoulder.” There are a great many things I write about … and this is one topic for which I am definitely an authority. (I am currently recuperating a shoulder injury incurred last June—this is November; I don’t heal as fast as I did when I was younger.)

* * *

I am going to go straight to the bottom line: It is inadvisable to attend a tournament with unstable form, it will only burn bad habits in that will take a lot of training to remove. Competition intensity makes “learning” faster.

Unless you can draw without pain, I would forgo the tournament.

The idea of using very light drawing limbs when you start up again is a very good one. Go for form first, strength second. I would start, though, with mimetics to see if I experience any pain while in ordinary archery postures. If I do, I would continue rehabbing and forgo shooting completely. If I can do the mimetics pain free, then I would start work with a stretch band. If I can do the stretch band exercises pain free (for more than one session, don’t rush it—the pain may not show up until the next day), then I would try a light drawing bow.

Injuries are common amongst archers but how to rehab them is not common knowledge. One of the bedrock principles of any rehabilitation program is to never compete when injured. Of course professional athletes do this all of the time . . . and then they re-injure the same body part or, worse, because they are compensating for one physical weakness, they overload another physical system and injure that. All kinds of subconscious processes will be invoked to minimize any pain you are in and, voilà, you will have a new shot in short order, one you did not design.

Also, do not take pain killers to allow yourself to practice or compete, even aspirin or other OTC analgesics. They will mask the pain and allow you to worsen your own injury. Pain is your body’s way of telling you to do something different. The best you can do is rest and follow a good rehab program (I am currently using the “Fix My Shoulder Pain” program which seems reasonable).

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