Saturday we had our first rugby game of the season. We and Hanover, the team we played, were pretty evenly matched. We ended the day with a 2-1 record. Our two victories were very much hard won. We struggled tackling most of Hanover’s players, so I foresee many tackling drills next week. And these victories also came at a cost- Earlham’s players walked off the field with quite a collection of battle wounds.
Typically, recovery is fairly straight forward: ensure you meet your hydration and nutrition needs, stretch well, and exercise lightly the next day.
It becomes a bit more complicated, however, when an injury limits the mobility of a body part. An injury like this:
This contusion and set of scratches was barely noticeable during the game; however, once I cooled down walking at even a slow pace became painful. Throughout the rest of the day, as I alternated icing it and gingerly walking around, it became less painful, and by the next morning I thought that it was okay to do a light jog on. I was wrong. Within 2 minutes the pain had become pretty unbearable and I ended up slightly limping back to my house.
I did not, however, want to simply sit around the day after a rugby game. I’d done that once and the next day was miserable. So, I decided to do the exercise regime I’d used when I sprained my ankle. The goal of all of these exercises is to work as many of the other parts of my body as possibly while minimizing impact on the site of the contusion.
*Disclaimer: These are activities that did not hurt me for the spot that I was injured. If any of them are causing pain at the site of the contusion, stop or alter the exercise to work for you.
Planks: Planks have been shown to have a plethora of health benefits. They build isometric, or static, strength in your core muscles which improves posture. Additionally, they strengthen muscles that you might not think about, such as your hip flexors, which help you to move around correctly. Finally. planks are easy to customize. A standard plank is done by holding yourself in pushup position for a certain amount of time. If you are starting out without much core strength, however, you can begin to build it up by doing planks with your knees on the ground. Once standard planks lose their challenge, you can try my favorite modified plank: elbow to hand plank. (picture?) Begin in the half plank position. Bring first your right arm, then your left, into full plank position while maintaining a straight spine. Then return to half plank. Do 20 reps.
Calf raises: Calf raises are a great way to increase strength and explosive ability (super important in Rugby!) While other exercises, such as squats and lunges, that hit the calves as well as other muscles groups might ordinarily be preferable, in the case of an thigh injury, isolating muscles is actually very helpful. Standard calf raises are done by standing with feet shoulder-width apart and feet pointing directly ahead. From there, you simply lift yourself onto the balls of your feet while contracting your calf muscles. I like to include angled calf raises to hit other muscles as well. To do so, begin in standard calf raise position, then angle your feet in 15 degrees each.
Pushups: Along with strengthening your arms, pushups are actually a pretty great core workout when done properly. I’m actually pretty bad at pushups. I attempted to do the 100 pushup challenge and then got distracted by 5k training about two weeks in. At the moment, I can do 15 if I push myself really hard. So, I tend to stick to standard pushups, because they are challenging enough for me. I’m guessing you already know how to do pushups, so I’ll just remind you of the importance of keeping your back straight throughout the whole set.
Hopefully these exercises will allow you to maintain fitness next time you encounter a leg injury!