Never rush your recovery from injury – Off-season Volleyball

 

I had initially planned to finish my first volleyball season as strongly as possible, no matter how the last game would have ended, I wanted to play. Unfortunately, injuries occur at the most unexpected times.

The very last training session my team and I were doing high intensity receiving drills where two players had to ensure that any ball, tossed by the coach, did not hit the ground. It was high intensity because he would toss the ball randomly, further away or incredibly close, a large or small toss, and we had to receive them regardless. It was in this training session that I experienced my first ever back strain. This was an entirely new injury because I suddenly lost my ability to bend at the hips, comfortably. Initially I thought one of my legs was tight, or that my back was simply stiff, so my first point of action was to foam roll with my Hyperice Vyper 2.0 when I got home. I already knew that this was an unusual tension that I felt in my lower back because, as I drove home from training, it was difficult to sit. After I foam rolled, the initial pain and tension that I experienced was not completely lifted, but was significantly improved.

The next morning it felt like I never knew how to walk. It was incredibly difficult to stand up from my bed, let alone get changed for work. However, since I still considered that this injury was nothing more than sore / tight muscles, I pushed through and went to work, albeit heavily assisting myself through the use of compression shorts, a sports support belt and I sat on a cushion while driving. Throughout that week I was noticeably recovering at a steady rate, by Wednesday the initial discomfort of bending at the waist was almost gone and I had regained my range of motion. As I still felt discomfort, I did not do any strenuous exercise that week and simply rested from all physical activity to further promote recovery. The following week I restarted my physical activities by simply walking on the treadmill and performing very light weighted upper body exercises. I did not progress onto lower body exercises until the following week, the same week in which I also started playing indoor beach volleyball. The week after that I was still only performing bodyweight lower body exercises and lightly weighted upper body exercises, even though I had regained full range of motion and the pain was gone. It would seem then that I was recovered enough to start weighted lower body exercises again, which was I regrettable mistake.

I was performing squats for the first time in months when I re-injured myself. Before this happened I was performing body weight squats with ease, on a bosu ball, and felt solid and secure in the movement. Deadlifting also felt solid, albeit I had experienced a significant decrease in my strength, I could still perform the movement as usual. In terms of upper body strength I was bench pressing almost as heavy as I was on my powerlifting program, so everything told me that I could proceed with squatting again. I had decided to work up to 80kg because I felt solid doing 60kg, but in my last set I felt a sudden strong pop sensation in my lower back and had to immediately rack the barbell. I decided to go on the elliptical for 5 min just to keep the blood flowing and to gauge if I had broken / fractured / herniated a disc in my lower back and/or spine. My greatest fear was that I fractured or herniated a disc, but as I was still able to support myself while walking upright, I could rule out having broken my spine. As I drove home I began to consider that this was the exact same injury that occurred to me previously, except the initial injury resulted from a sudden change in direction while weighing heavier than throughout the season (I discovered this weeks after). True enough, when I went to the doctor the next day for an examination, he ruled that it was a mild muscle strain and that I must recover and rehabilitate for 4-6 weeks, adjusting it to 6-8 weeks myself.  Due to my eagerness and stubbornness to be fully recovered, I caused myself to re-injure and thus all plans for focusing on volleyball, both indoor and outdoor, and doing weighted lower body movements to improve my vertical, had to be halted. Moral of this lesson, do not be over eager in returning to normal activities even if I feel 100%.

I am currently in 4/8 weeks of recovery and I no longer experience any pain in bending at the waist and have regained full range of motion. I have not / will not attempt weighted lower body movements for the remainder of my recovery period, instead opting to only body weighted exercises in a calisthenics manner. During this period I also weighed myself because I was curious if I had gained any weight, I am ashamed to report that I currently weigh 10kg heavier than my maintenance of 85kg during the season. This was a hard fact to process because this has been my most active year in recent memory, but my negligence in external physical exercise and activity except volleyball was my downfall.

My current plan of action, to improve my quality of life and to prepare myself for a stronger and more optimal performing season, is to lose this unwanted weight. Losing the weight will provide me with the greatest improvement in all aspects because I will be more agile while reducing the force on my knees while playing volleyball. The benefit of doing bodyweight squats is that I do not experience knee pain and I can focus on activating my posterior chain, rather than relying on my quads.

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