Why you don’t need to give up your sport because of knee pain

Do I need to give up my sport because of knee pain? - Picture by Alba RincónWhat do you think is the most important requirement for successful rehab?

I started researching knee pain in 2009 and have read over five thousand reader emails since. One hard truth that took me years to understand is that the right mindset is more important for successful rehab than everything else. Here’s why.

You can have the very best knowledge and training programs at your fingertips, but if you don’t believe that you can do it and that it can work for you it’s all for nothing.

It’s a bit like finding a bundle of hundred dollar bills on the ground and not even trying to pick them up, because maybe it’s a prank or maybe they’re fake or maybe the wind will carry them away when you try to pick it up. The wrong mindset will prevent you from even trying.

So let’s start building the right mindset with the following 5 reasons why you don’t need to give up your sport.

#1: If THIS man can recover, so can you

“If he can do it, so can I,” is a frowned upon way of motivating yourself, but it works. For knee pain, I don’t know a better example than what Shaun Livingston went through.

Shaun is a professional basketball player and in 2007 he suffered a devastating knee injury after landing awkwardly from a jump. Here are the cliff notes.

  • Dislocated kneecap
  • Torn ACL
  • Torn PCL
  • Torn lateral meniscus
  • Badly sprained MCL
  • Dislocated tibio-fibular joint

His injury was so severe that doctors warned him about the risk of having to amputate his lower leg!

After sixteen months of rehab, his doctors finally allowed him back on the court, but that was only a small step compared to what followed. It took 10 trades over 5 years, until Shaun was finally in a position to continue his growth as a player where he had left off before his injury.

In a way, a trade is the equivalent of an NBA franchise saying “we can do better without you.” Imagine how you’d feel if that happens on a regular basis. But Shaun didn’t quit, oh no. He kept improving his game.

Seven years after his injury Shaun played a pivotal role in the NBA Finals and won his first NBA championship as a result.

Nine years after his injury Shaun won his second NBA championship, with another great performance in the playoffs.

Here is a guy who went from having severe damage in almost every structurally important part of his knee to being in the NBA Finals three times in a row and winning two championships.

Shaun Livingston, picture by  Target="_blank">Keith Allison via Flickr.

Shaun Livingston, picture by Keith Allison via Flickr.

Imagine you had visited Shaun in the hospital in 2007 and told him he’d be a two-time NBA champion. Do you think he would have believed you?

If there’s one thing his example has taught me it’s that you MUST keep going because cannot even begin imagine what you will achieve in the future.

No matter what your goals are and how impossible the odds may seem right now, there is a way if you keep working hard enough for a long enough time with the right knowledge.

#2: You will succeed if you EXPECT setbacks and plan accordingly

For the longest time I thought that with the right training strategy and a detailed enough training journal, you’ll never even suffer a single setback, but no matter how great the results of my course participants were, a few setbacks kept happening.

Today, I consider setbacks a common part of the recovery process.

You can mitigate risk all you want, but odds are you will experience a setback eventually. This is because to increase the load tolerance of your knee, you need to put more load on it. With more load, there’s always the risk of doing too much, especially if you happen to have a crazy day at work or some other unforeseen stressor for your knee.

In other words, to get better you need take a certain amount of risk.

Success is about expecting setbacks and not getting depressed about them. Yes it sucks, but you’ll be back on track fast. In my experience, a setback will cost you no more than a month of extra recovery time at worst and it’s usually more like two or three weeks.

The best way to handle a setback is to reduce your rehab intensity to level that allows your pain to settle. Then you ease back to your pre-setback level slowly.

#3: You haven’t yet tried everything

I know that getting better is difficult and I know firsthand that nothing works for everyone all the time.  If you find yourself at the abyss and you’re only seeing problems, believing in a way out will be hard, which brings us back to the importance of mindset.

One person only sees obstacles and things that won’t work.

Another person sees challenges and opportunities to try.

To give you a specific example from my own life, back when I wrote my first book in 2012 my father had serious doubts about it, to put it mildly. He would ask me when I’d finally find some “real work.”

I had a lowly-paying job at the time and worked on my own career as a side project with no idea where it would ultimately take me. My mindset was “I’ll try my hardest to make this work.” My dad’s mindset was “This will never work.”

I was working on my first book even while on vacation. I'd get up and write from 5 AM to 7 AM every day before having breakfast with my family. I took this shot on one of these mornings while everyone else was still sleeping.

I was working on my first book even while on vacation. I’d get up and write from 5 AM to 7 AM every day before having breakfast with my family. I took this shot on one of these mornings while everyone else was still sleeping.

If I had listened to my dad, thousands of people would still be in pain and I’d probably sit in a cubicle somewhere. One single mindset made a huge difference not just for me, but many others. If you want to dive deeper into how mindsets can poison your thinking, I recommend this short article.

When it comes to rehab, I like to think of the process like Sherlock Holmes puzzling together clues while solving a case. It’s not straightforward and you may find yourself in a dead end several times, but then again, maybe you’re just one very small change away from having breakthrough success.

This can be as simple as sleeping with your knees straight. Doesn’t seem like much, right? But for some people this small change will end years of pain.

Today I consider “I’ve already tried everything” a justification for staying complacent. To me this is way of patting yourself on the back and saying “It’s okay that you’ve given up. You don’t need to keep fighting, just rest now.”

But it’s not okay to give up. There’s no white knight in shining armor coming to save you. If you don’t do it yourself, nobody will.

#4: Your odds of getting better increase every day

With every day that goes by, your odds of getting better increase a little bit. It’s only logical.

Every day you learn something new. Maybe it’s through my articles or emails, maybe it’s because you discovered something makes you feel a little bit better or maybe it’s the opposite, you discovered a movement you need to avoid.

Regardless of what it is, you always get smarter every day. More knowledge and experience will put you in a better position to solve your problem and so your odds of getting better increase every.

Of course it may not seem like it from down on the ground, but just because you can’t see the finish line doesn’t mean it’s not getting closer.

#5: If you love your sport, you’ll never give it up

I’ve read a lot of books about self-improvement. Some of the suggestions you’ll find in these books are farfetched, but one piece of advice is true without question: you can overcome any deficit with the right amount of effort. Here’s a famous quote to that effect.

“If you really want to do something, you’ll find a way. If you don’t, you’ll find an excuse.”
(Jim Rohn)

There is endless real-world proof for this statement if you just start looking.

Bill Gates made his first small fortune by selling an operating system he didn’t even have at the time. His previous business had failed, by the way.

Shaun Livingston kept training for years even when no team would give him enough minutes on the court to prove his worth.

Steve Jobs rejoined Apple even though they had betrayed him years before and even though the company was failing, because he knew he’d find a way to turn things around.

Sylvester Stallone kept trying to find a studio that would let him star in his own screenplay (Rocky) even after countless studios had turned him down. He was so poor he had to pawn off his dog to buy food, yet he refused to sell his screenplay for a five figure sum unless he was to star in the movie.

Stephen King’s first novel was rejected 30 times.

Walt Disney was told he lacked creativity.

Henry Ford went broke 5 times before founding his car company.

J. K. Rowling was depressed, penniless, and raising a child on her own before her breakthrough success with the Harry Potter series.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, because he wasn’t good enough. Now he’s the Greatest of All Time.

Today these people are world famous, but at some point they were down and out. Their mindset made the difference.

Maybe this week sucks and maybe next week will be worse, but better times are coming if you just keep going. The fact that you’re reading this tells me that you are working towards getting better, so keep it up.

– Martin

PS: One thing I need to make clear before ending this article is that putting your sport on hold to focus on rehab isn’t giving it up. If you want to get back stronger than you ever were, you need to take time off to get well.

Picture Credit

Alba Rincón – Jessica Ennis