My injury battle, diagnosis, and the role the mind plays.
As an athlete, identifying pains
is very important. Learning when to push it may become a game changer in your career.
Hi guys! I am back again, and today I want to talk about my battle against this recurrent injury.
Being injured is not fun, however, we need to point out that what makes it unbearable is how we react to injuries. Ant that applies to everything in life, challenges and successes. Our emotional stability depends on our reactions to life experiences - how we take in life events. At the end of the day it is a choice we make. Most of the times we lean onto the easier way out, to succumb into negativity and stress. For some reason, our minds feed on those strong emotions. The harder way out is to make peace with it and thrive with other athletes' successful journeys coming back.
2017 wasn’t looking pretty for me until I decided to turn it around in my last event of the year in New Zealand. From the outside, it may looked as if I lost the event to Brooke Henderson, however; I took it in a more uplifting way. I learned a lot from it and took tons of positives out of that week. I finished the year on a positive note, very inspired and eager to start out in 2018 and continue the mojo. After the season was done, I concluded the year with a good pre season fitness training that consisted on 3 straight weeks working progressively on the gym to achieve an overall strong build up. Last year, I wasn’t very consistent on the gym because I was more focused with the golf swing, and I do have a weak left shoulder that was giving me problems at the end of the year. Overall, we wanted to strengthen the whole shoulder and scapular area, keep working on increasing thoracic spine mobility and increase overall strength on glutes and lumbar area.
2018 was supposed to be a good year. This is not a fact, is something I worked on for a long time to try and make it that way, I was determined to make it be a great year. I felt great golf wise , mental and body wise. I had a great pre season golf training in Florida, and felt great heading into Bahamas. However a couple of days before flying out to the tournament, while I was hitting balls on the range, I started feeling a strange stabbing on my left hip. I didn’t stop, I kept on going. After I finished a high volume practice day, I drove down to Miami for one of my good friends bachelorette party. From Jupiter is close to a 2 hour drive, when I got off the car I knew something was wrong. I had to cut short the girls trip to drive back up the next morning as I wasn’t able to stand on my both feet for long periods of time let alone dancing!
I decided to give myself 2 days off, but the third day, the pain was same or even greater. That is when I decided to have non-invasive treatments like cryotherapy, laser and TENS (electro frequency) to alleviate or maintain pain levels and inflammation to be able to resist the same amount of practice loads before flying into Bahamas. I was in pain. But I kept going. I was in a golf rush, I was playing so good that I wanted to make my mark in the first event of the year.
I wasn’t able to prepare myself as I wanted, but I was mentally in a good place. I played well that week despite horrible windy conditions, but on Sunday I depleted my hip resistance share and in a 30 yards chip, I felt the strongest sharp pain as if the tendons supporting the iliac crest tore in small pieces. I was on hole 6, I had to call the LPGA physio to come out to the course to help me finish. I took some pain killers and he taped me to be able to finish the round. We discussed whether finishing the round would aggravate the injury or not, but because I was in the heat of the round, and I was able to manage to swing at a 40% speed, we thought nothing major happened. So I decided to finish.
I went back home for less than two weeks before heading out to Australia. I still wasn’t able to practice more than putting and a couple of iron shots. Thats when I decided to get an MRI, and get treated from bursitis. It felt good. Flew to Australia with no pain, until Wednesday, and the pain came back. Now, thinking back, I regret flying to Australia and attempting to play. I regret even strongly trying to finish the event, even with the pain I felt while playing and despite the fact I was undoubtedly going to miss the cut! But this is a very common mistake us athletes make. We are so competitive that we fall in this facade of not admitting the pain we truly feel. We want to play, we want to compete. And we avoid the truth, we get in denial. I was in denial. I was never ready to play in Australia and my body was sending me sings I didn’t want to listen. Playing under those conditions only made my mental darkness to take control over the injury and my state of mind.
The crazy thing is that I was still in denial. I flew back from Australia to check on my boyfriend who was playing in Rio de Janeiro. Again, I thought those days off would do me good. But the pain was getting worse. I then flew back to Bogota, and decided to start my hip rehabilitation. Since my first MRI didn’t show any signs of tear or major muscle distress, we decided we needed to start working on hip mobility exercises. We agreed my IT band suffered a major stretch (more than it can handle) because the muscles around it were very tight and restricted. That stretch was painful and left a mark. A mark of pain that muscles remembered. To get more graphic, think about a plastic bag: when you pull from each ends, before it breaks, it strechtes out into a more lose wavy form.
We worked on strengthening the glutes, the quads and hamstrings, at the same time I started to teach my hip how to rotate properly and disassociate from the upper body more freely. The loading exercises were easy, since I am actually very strong on those muscles, however; some of the functional exercises of hip rotations were extremely hard both mentally and physically.
However the pain never ceased, it was actually getting stronger even. That is when I communicated this to my team and we decided to take another MRI, this time of my hip, since the pain was literally on my iliac crest. This second MRI came clean, once again. I was devastated. It looked like if I was waiting for something negative to come up in those images. And to be honest, I was. I was in so much pain that I couldn’t rest in peace with the diagnosis they kept giving me. I couldn’t believe MRIs were both clean and that I was battling a simple tendinopathy. I have had tendinitis before, and I know how those feel. This time felt different, and mentally I was going insane. I couldn’t see light at the end of the tunnel.
Thats when I started to crush. I didn’t want to do anything, but laying on bed. I became apathetic. That day I bought a ticket to Miami and decided to give myself a week off with my boyfriend, -being in the sidelines will do me good-, away from any social or mental pressure of healing faster. I needed some time off.
Here in Miami, the third day accompanying Rob to his practices, I was lucky enough to meet the medical staff running the event. With medical staff I mean, top orthopedics, radiologist and sport medicine doctors, that help out during this two week the best tennis players in the world during the Sony Open. These are not only socialists in the matter, but great people. I met Dr. Swartzon and asked him if he didn’t mind to take a look at my un-diagnosed injury. He never hesitated to listen up and after a couple minuted he became very concerned and at the same time interested in helping me out. He decided to do an ultra-sound on the affected area and thats when he clearly saw big chunks of calcification on my tendons. He couldn’t believe I had to deal with these since January 17th! And there it was, I finally got my diagnosis. And right up that second, I felt like I got rid of a big gorilla off my shoulders. I was now in peace, and ready to battle this and come back stronger. Dr. Swartzon was a little concerned that I had dealt with these calcifications for so long, simple shock-waves therapy and rest weren’t going to cut it. He suggested to add another healing method by breaking up the residues with a needle. He opened up his schedule to get me in right the next day (today) to do a PRP injection and break up of calcifications. Just to let you know, this HURTS.A.LOT.
Right now we are looking on a 2 day on crouches, 2 weeks complete rest - might start working on super body strength in a 10 -15 days. And then slowly, start putting and working on lower body strength. So far, it looks like ideally I could be back mid May- June. I am not a big fan on working towards a date, but rather focusing on listening to my body and start playing back when I feel no pain. My goal is to make it back by then, but I am now in a good state of mind. I am eager to work hard once I feel healthy, and definitely dont feel like rushing the process to try and make it out there as soon as possible.
One thing I have clear in my mind is that I want to help the healing process with good sleep and a healthy clean nutrition. I believe those changes are going to have a very positive impact on my healing process and my state of mind. And it will probably be my next topic to write about. Also, I will not stop working with my mental coach along the process, it is very important I have someone to communicate with my mood levels. Like I said at the beginning of the post, being injured is not easy. There are days where I feel great and then I stand up from the dinning chair and the sharp pain overpowers my mental tranquility, and the whole process starts again. That is why I decided to not play the countdown game, putting my comeback date on display. I want to empower the signs my body sends me over time, that way I will be able to control my emotions a little bit better and guarantee I come back the healthiest I can be.
To finish, I want to thank every one of you for all the incoming messages. I feel every word you say, I feel you guys and I appreciate you. Please let me know if you guys have any questions, I am kind of new to these calcifications, so will love to hear your stories if you ever suffered from them. Also, will love to know, if when injured, what were some of the stuff you guys used to do. The Belen in rest mode is not easy. I have never been good at it, need to learn from you guys!