I grew up taking naps under a massage table. During the spring and summer, my father, a sports massage therapist and coach, would spend weekends working at races, tournaments and bouts of all kinds. And I would get dragged along—thanks, Dad!
The days in the sun were the best: at marathons or 5Ks or pro beach volleyball tournaments. I would lie in the sun and watch muscular bodies hop on my dad’s table for a post-race rub down. I would watch them compete, studying the emotional and physical ups and downs and cheering them on from the sidelines. Then there were the days in gyms—with squealing whistles ringing over the yells and grunts of players playing—when I camped out on shaky bleachers to read and be a spectator.
Needless to say, I witnessed a lot of athleticism. I saw horrible, career-ending injuries and beautiful moments of triumph. Everything I know about teamwork, communication, determination, competition and sacrifice comes from those weekends at Dad’s.
For these athletes, it was always more than just a race or a game. It was life.
Sports medicine, I’ve been told, is like that too. It’s more than just a massage here or an adjustment there. It’s more than surgery to have fluids removed from your knee or treatments for a torn ACL. For the athletes who depend on and thrive because of sports medicine, it’s the difference between living and not living.
I recently called my dad to talk with him about sports medicine—a little inspiration from the man who taught me that athleticism and sportsmanship are not saved for the court. He’s a life-long athlete and he’s worked on some of the world’s most impressive athletes (we’ve had French Olympians over for Thanksgiving dinner). We talked about sports medicine and what it means for athletes, and by the end of our conversation, we had wrangled a better description of sports medicine than any textbook could ever give.
There’s really no all-encompassing list of medicine or treatments or measures specifically for athletes. And while massage, chiropractic medicine, orthopedics, strength, conditioning and physical therapy can account for a bulk of preventative and reactive care, it’s just the beginning. In fact, athletes would be remiss if they thought of sports medicine as anything but 100 percent holistic.
It’s treating every day as a training day. It’s an awareness. It’s knowing your body, listening to it and responding appropriately.
Sometimes that’s common sense: hydration, nutrition and stretching. But it can also be changing how you train and compete. In the Boulder County area, we are constantly treated to delightful tales of the mythical weekend warrior—the athlete who works all week and plays all weekend, eating up a 100-mile ride as if it were Sunday brunch. But that’s an urban legend that we seem to hold on to. The weekend warrior, without training on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, risks injury. On the other end, balancing daily work with daily activity can also lead to injury: running 6 miles before dawn and then sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours makes it even more difficult for your body to recover. It’s about pushing yourself while ensuring you don’t push too hard.
That consciousness is part of training. And sometimes that means not being so adherent to your discipline that you over do it; and it sometimes means having enough respect for your body that you stay hydrated, eat well, stretch, strength train and condition. And don’t forget to get a good massage every week.