07 December 2009

Injury Prone

If you follow sports, you are more than familiar with the seemingly ubiquitous term "injury prone." The media like to throw it around to criticize certain players for their seemingly unending trips to the emergency room. More to the point, the media like to "classify" athletes as injury prone. Prior to today, I hadn't given the term much thought, except to agree that some players seemed to be injured more often than others - or was it that they took games off due to injury at a higher rate than others?

The reason for my sudden consideration of this term has more to do with my own body than any millionaire hockey player out there. You see, I tore some ligaments in my MCL yesterday at hockey - fortunately it was hockey and not Ultimate, thus reassuring me that I am in fact Canadian. After the injury, a friend of mine mentioned that I seemed to have no luck with injuries. As a recreational thirty something athlete, I tend to disagree with the use of the word "luck" in that sentence. You see, most athletes (or shall we refer to them as sports participants - a term that is perhaps more a propos for those less inclined to sports than others but who nevertheless participate at the same level) over the age of thirty tend to injure themselves fairly regularly. Although I have no data to confirm this, I think we could all agree that weekend warriors get hurt for one of 2 reasons: 1) driving their "Honda-civic" bodies as though they were BMWs, as perhaps they once were and 2) lack of regular playing time coupled with intensity leads to extreme soreness which we will characterize as injuries, although they are perhaps less severe than the category injuries, which can be, how shall we say, "spectacular"

If we assume the logic of these categories, we can see that luck plays a minor role in injuries for recreational athletes. They (or rather we) get hurt because we are no longer 16, nor are we as active as we once were. We get hurt because as we age, our bodies become worn down, but many of us continue to treat our bodies as though they were in mint condition. Unless you are taking some "vitamin S" (thanks James!), I got news for you, you are going to hurt yourself fairly regularly unless you put more and more time into maintaining your body as you age.

But what of professional athletes in their prime? Is there such a thing as being injury prone? Are some athletes more likely than others to hurt themselves in the pursuit of their sport? The statistics show a resounding yes. There are some logical and straightforward reasons for this:

  1. Some athletes simply condition themselves better than others. Staying fit and strong give you a better chance of avoiding injuries.
  2. Some athletes take more chances than others - they go "all out", as the popular euphimysm goes. The harder they play, the more likely they have of injuring themselves.
  3. Believe it or not, some athletes are simply unlucky. Yes luck plays a role - even the most cautious of drivers will get in to accident for the simple reason that there are other cars on the road!
So given these considerations - and we could certainly state other reasons if we gave this more thought - it seems logical that some athletes are injury prone. Sadly, I have come to accept that I may be one of these athletes. When the media speak of these athletes however, it often seems it is with disdain or some sort of allusion to a genetic weakness. "Oh well Bob, he's injury prone, so don't expect too much output from him this season." Rather than focusing on the negative, why not revere these gladiators of aggression and "all-out-ness" as example of how to "go hard, or go home." If nothing else, sports needs these injury prone knuckleheads to demonstrate to others what not to do, or simply, how to avoid a safe and injury free lifestyle!