Athletes are typically highly motivated and committed to their sports. Hard work as a means of improvement is a core value. Among the most difficult things a sports medicine physician must recommend to an athlete is rest.
An athlete’s response to a physician’s advice is not age-dependent. Older people often tragically ignore sound advice while younger athletes with a bright future may accept the verdict.
Inexperienced athletes perceive rest as a defeat and often ignore this recommendation. Their persistence to “work through the pain” often leads to a more severe, career-ending or life-altering injury.
More mature athletes understand that resting can be an opportunity to become better at their sport. They use the time to work on other aspects of their game and often emerge stronger and more competitive.
For example, a pitcher or golfer may realize after an injury that they can no longer rely on power and must add more finesse to their game.
Rest is an effective treatment for many injuries:
• Muscle strain. Rest allows muscle fibers that may have small tears to repair themselves and perform more efficiently.
• Sprains. These injuries involve ligaments that stabilize joints. Swelling and inflammation are a result of these injuries and rest gives the body an opportunity to resolve this response.
• Concussions. Any brain injury requires cognitive and physical rest so that brain cells can heal. Any activity should be stopped until it can be done without a headache.
Rest does not mean total separation from sports. Rehabilitation involves activity without the use of an injured limb or joint. Bracing can often allow for limited, painless activity. A recovery plan should include the advice of a certified athletic trainer or physical therapist.
One common feature to these injuries is pain and a good rule to follow is that if it hurts, rest is in order.