Should You Train Through Injury?

There are few things more frustrating as an athlete than being injured. A simple slip at Saturday soccer might leave you with a sprained ankle and a few weeks recovery ahead of you. So, what do you do? Do you rest up and risk losing some strength and fitness, or would it be better to keep training?

Each situation is individual

Every individual will experience injuries and recovery differently, and no situation is the same. It’s important not to get caught up in how you might have seen someone else recover from an injury and expect that your situation will be the same as them.

Generally, it is safe to train with an injury, particularly musculoskeletal injuries, but this will always vary from case to case.

Get a professional opinion

Receiving an accurate diagnosis of your injury by a health professional, for example, a physiotherapist is an important step to proper recovery. A health professional will be able to recommend any necessary scans and tests to determine the extent of your injury, and they will also be able to provide a detailed report for your trainer. The health professional will be able to determine whether training will increase the severity of the injury, or whether it will be safe to continue training will some modifications. 

For your coach or trainer to be able to train you following an injury, they need to know exactly what injury and limitations you have. Trainers are not qualified to diagnose injuries, and instead, your best path to recovery will come when your health professional and trainer work together towards a common goal. 

Can training with an injury actually be beneficial?

Surprisingly, sometimes no training can be more harmful than training. However, a mature and patient mindset is invaluable in this situation, as letting your ego take hold and pushing yourself too hard can be detrimental and increase your recovery time. 

Open communication with your coach is key to a solid recovery, as you need to be comfortable telling them when a movement is causing you pain. With your coach, begin to work out what movements aggravate your injury, and what movements you can do pain-free. A good coach will be able to work with you to ensure you can maintain strength and stability while continuing to recover.

When you stop training you start to lose muscle mass and strength, and this can lead to greater issues for joints. Muscles act to support your joints, and without this, your joint can be at increased risk of injury. As you start to heal, you need to begin to start using the injured body part again. 

A great example of when training after an injury is beneficial is when you roll your ankle. When this injury happens, the ligaments and the muscles will be pulled and loosened on one side. Initially, there will be pain and inflammation which will mean you need to rest the injury. Once this starts to go down and you can bear more weight, you need to start doing some exercises. By exercising on the ankle, you begin to strengthen the muscles and tendons up which allows better support for your ankle. If you continue to rest your ankle or rely on strapping or tape, the joint will continue to be loose and unsupported and you will be more likely to reinjure your ankle. 

Another benefit of training with an injury means you are able to work on your non-affected areas. This may mean you have the opportunity to work on new skills or strengthen your weaknesses which you may not have attempted otherwise.

Stay Patient

Recovery is not a linear process, meaning you don’t always continue to improve day after day. It can be easy to feel like you aren’t going anywhere, or that you should be progressing faster. It is important to stay patient during the rehabilitation process, as pushing yourself too much too early can send you backwards and delay recovery. Trust the process, stay patient, and the results will come.

Aaron McIlwee