Finding Mindfulness Through Injury

Originally posted on ZGiRLS.org 

Mindfulness is a state of active, open attention on the present. When you’re mindful, you observe your thoughts and feelings from a distance, without judging them good or bad. Instead of letting your life (during recovery) pass you by, mindfulness means living in the moment and awakening to experience.

My former teammate, Sara Brathwaite had an inner drive to be the best soccer player she could be, and through her ceaseless dedication, she became an absolutely phenomenal soccer player.

In her fifth year of college soccer, she was dominating the game on DePaul’s turf when she tore her ACL. It felt impossibly unfair and beyond lonely, still, her immediate impulse was to fight her way through recovery to find herself back on the field as soon as possible. One year later, her sheer determination led her to ignore her body’s signals to rest. And a second surgery.

Sara shared this excellent excerpt of how she realized the need for a more mindful approach to recovery.

“As I tried to pulsate my quad on the table, all I saw was a slight quiver of what appeared to be my muscle. The entire leg shook the harder I tried to tighten my leg and the more I tried to pop my heel off the table. At this point, I was 1 full year post my initial ACL and meniscus surgery, and 2 months post my meniscectomy. The shock and rage that engulfed me was tremendous. I felt robbed and cheated by my other PT whom I had seen for 10 weeks post operatively. I was angry with him, because restoring function to my knee was never a priority, and he never seemed to have enough time to watch the way I did certain exercises. Even with my post operative care for my first surgery, the ACL and meniscus, the PT’s that tended to me, were not influential in helping me restore proper function to my leg with the specific exercises I was given.

Before meeting Lisa, my current physical therapist, and her staff at Active Care, I felt alone and confused on my various symptoms and happenings of my knee. I would work out almost 7 days a week, doing mainly “low impact” forms of exercises that were given to me by the numerous PT’s that I had seen, but found them minimally effective. Within me, there was a small voice inside, saying “Sara, this is not right.” My knee would constantly ache because I was doing way too much on it, till I got to the point where I said enough, I need to make a change. The best change I could have ever made in my journey and road to recovery, was to see my current physical therapist Lisa. Within her dynamic practice, we discovered that my quad function, and neuromuscular circuitries had never properly been restored. My first appointment with her, was all about quad sets and heel pops, things that seemed so foreign to my leg, that it shook uncontrollably. At the sight of this my heart broke, because my leg was speaking to me for the months, but I was not listening. It was too weak to do all of the 10 mile hikes, intense spin classes, and attempted running that I had made it do. When I saw the state of my quad, I realized the mindless way I had been treating my leg and my body. It was crushing. In yoga, one of my instructors would say, “We only have one body, so do kind and holy things to your body.” These words along with my physical therapy switch have helped me slow down and become more in tune with what my body is saying to me.”  

The dilemma to overwork our bodies (or to rest) daunts most elite athletes, as we are trained to tune out pain and discomfort in order to propel in our sport. We encourage you to treat your body with kindness and practice mindfulness in your recovery (and life), because your body is the only vehicle you have to reach your dreams.

From ACL Warriors to another,

~Bianca and Sara 


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