Monday, February 27, 2006

Injuries and karate

I've been thinking alot about a friend of mine that is hampered in his efforts to train by injuries.

Can one train in karate when injured? Is it a smart thing to do?

The very first moment that I walked into the dojo, I started with a previously damaged right hip. It didn't bother me until I attempted my first roundhouse kick. I lifted my right leg, and pain shot through me. Just lifting my leg to the side was enough, I didn't even kick out yet. I had to take it slow, and easy. I used the wall for balance, and guiding my leg with my hand I gently lifted it into position as far as possible (until pain started), held it, and brought it back down to relax. Without being consciously aware, I was doing physical therapy on myself.

With time, persistence, and effort, I have been able to increase the flexibility of my hips/legs. I can perform a roundhouse kick without pain, at about chest height. I feel that this was of great benefit to me. Instead of my flexiblity lessening as I progressed in age, I've increased, and developed myself.

On the other hand... Lately, I've injured my left shoulder. Don't ask me how. I believe that I had done a technique improperly with full power, and somehow pulled one of the muscles connected to my bicep muscle. Although I've been gentle on my left arm for the past month and a half, it doesn't seem to be improving. The injury that I sustained on my right wrist two years ago ( a sprained wrist) still rears up and complains as I train. I've also injured my right middle knuckle on a punching bag, and there are times when my knuckle will swell, and make crackling noises.

So... I've gained in some areas, and lost in others. I believe that I'm not alone. As more and more people train in karate into their mature years, they have to balance the benefits of training, with the fact that injuries can, and may happen as we train.

How do we know if we can keep training with an injury?

For those moments when we fall, or get smacked hard by our opponent, and we feel that nasty feeling that something went "OUCH" more than it should have, I present this quote:

"Robert Nirschl, M.D., assistant professor of orthopedics at Georgetown
University, in Washington, D.C., offers this advice: "Look for signs of
inflammation such as swelling, redness, tenderness, fever--generalized or
local--or pain that persists with or without continued activity." Any of
these signs--or others, such as decreased mobility or weight-bearing ability
of the affected limb, or a "popping" or "snapping" sound--indicates the need
for immediate treatment."

Should you take aspirin, or other pain relievers when training with an injury?

"Mirkin went even further in cautioning injured athletes about using pain
relievers at all. "They stop the pain," he explained, "but the
prostaglandins that cause the pain are part of the healing process. There
have been studies indicating that blocking prostaglandins may inhibit
healing. . . . You're better off taking nothing." He recommends rest and
keeping in shape during recovery with a sport that stresses uninjured parts
of the body."

Should you use one of those creams like Tiger Balm?

"Experts are even less enthusiastic about topical treatments such as creams,
ointments and liniments in treating injured muscles. FDA categorizes these
treatments as "topical counterirritants": "externally applied substances
that cause irritation or mild inflammation of the skin for the purpose of
relieving pain in muscle, joints, or viscera distal to the site of
application." In other words, the burning of your skin takes your mind off
your aching muscles. As Geismar puts it, "It's like pinching your big toe so
that you forget about your headache."

There is no scientific proof that topical treatments, even those that contain
aspirin, ease aching muscles, though the rubbing or massaging of the area can
itself be soothing. Since the medications often contain irritants, such as
menthol, the labels caution against bandaging the applied area tightly or for
too long. "

So what can you do if you injure yourself?

The R.I.C.E. method will help. R. is Rest, I. is Ice, C is Compression, and E is Elevate. Do not Ice the area longer than 10 or 15 minutes.

What is the goal in training with injuries?

I would suggest that we adapt to the need of the injured part with an attitude of humbleness at accepting the truth that we are not invincible. Perhaps one could tie a colored ribbon around the damaged limb to remind their kumite partners that they are continuing training to keep up their skills, but that care needs to be given to any techniques sent in that direction until that limb heals. Exercise is good for the limb. It promotes blood flow, and strengthens the muscles around the injured part. It would not be a good thing to stress the injured part to the point where damage is increased rather than decreased.

We need to be aware that healing takes longer for the older body. A young karate ka can submit his/her body to some strenous regime, and survive, even thrive. An older karate ka has to change the type of demand on his/her body. Doing one type of training on one day, and then giving that part of the body a rest, and focusing on another part of the body the next day. This would be similar to weight lifters that do Upper body training on Monday, and Lower body training on Tuesday.

I would encourage prevention of possible injury as the main focus of a karate ka. "Not only should your entire fitness program start out slowly and progress
gradually, but each day's regimen should include a warm-up that gently brings
your body up to a level where it can do vigorous exercise, and then a
cool-down to return to a normal activity level." Also, very importantly, make sure that you are well hydrated before you exercise. Your body needs water to move well. One should be sure to have had at least 2 glasses of water about 2 hours before training, and another glass of water 15 minutes before training.

Train hard..yes.. but train smart!

All quotes taken from:


[Mat] said...

train smart.

I like that.

Have a good day.

John Vesia said...

You're right when you say older practitioners should use caution when training. I was 37 the first time I stepped into a dojo (I'm 45 now), and I have sustained my share of injuries...most recently scar tissue on my knuckles. I just don't recover as quickly as these younger guys do.