My injury history

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I had a question about my injury history/what I’ve done to rehab injuries.  BY NO MEANS should you take anything I say as authoritative advice on the best ways to rehab certain injuries.  This is just what I’ve done and what worked (or didn’t).  Also keep in mind that most of these injuries occurred when I was a teenager and I had no clue what I was doing.  If I could do it all again, I’d certainly have done some things differently.

1.  Shoulder inflammation:  My right shoulder has very limited internal AND external rotation, and almost anything over 5 reps sets off some inflammation that takes a few days of rest to subside.  I played baseball and pitched a lot, often without warming up sufficiently, which probably accounts for most of this.  I tried laying off pressing and doing bunches of scap retraction/external rotation/stretching/upper back work, etc. and nothing’s really worked.  I just keep the reps load or make absolutely certain to terminate a set when I start drifting out of scapular depression.  Lately I’ve been thinking it may be related to a weak serratus, as I can do pushups without pain and my serratus is mangled the next day after I put in much volume.  This one’s still a work in progress.

2.  Osgood-schlatter becomming tendonitis:  I had OS when I first started lifting, but it morphed into tendonitis with age.  Widening my squat stance helped somewhat (so I could sit back and keep my shins more vertical).  The magic bullet, I discovered, was keeping my hip flexors loose (especially the rectus femoris).  Every time my RF gets tight my knees start getting achy, but some stretching and split squats fix me right up.  High frequency squatting helped it a lot as well, whether via increases in collagen synthesis or simply dialing in technique.

3.  Tennis elbow:  I still deal with this from time to time, but it’s mainly a function of not warming up enough or squatting with a fatigued upper back.  When my levator scapula and my rhomboid aren’t firing well on the left side, my left elbow has to get shoved farther back to create a shelf for the bar, and more weight of the bar ends up resting on my hand which makes my elbow mad at me.  I thought it was caused by a biceps weakness initially (which I still think MAY contribute somewhat), but the primary cause is a scapular dysfunction which I can fix with some modified face pulls (it’s somewhere between a face pull and an upright row).  If I do that and it still gets irritated, it’s a sign that I’ve just been training a bit too hard and my back needs a little break.  In other words, I go high bar instead  😉

4.  Pinching psoas:  I tried almost everything for it until I happened upon a really awesome stretch (that I think I invented.  At least I haven’t ever seen anyone else do it).  It’s hard to describe in words, but I’ll make a video for it at some point.  Also, doing some MAT on my hip flexors has helped.

5. Torn QL:  This was the biggie that initiated a 3 year break from serious lifting.  I tried stretching, high rep back extensions, total rest, myofascial release, inversion and I even went to PT for it (which didn’t really help).  I’m sure it all helped a little, but the main cause was just tight hip flexors and hamstrings making it impossible for me to maintain proper pelvic tilt when lifting so I re-irritated it what felt like 1000 times.  Finally, having no one around who could give good advice (and 16 year old me was totally stumped), I just essentially quit for a while.  Finally I figured out the problem (I found myself at a weak 250 pound with hips so tight I had real difficulties standing up off the floor. This was a moment of awakening for an 18 year old who had been a 3 sport athlete just a few years prior) and worked to address it.  I lost about 60 pounds in the course of a semester (You may say averaging 4 pounds per week is unhealthy.  I would say I was super fat so it was easy with just a modicum of willpower.  Difference of opinion I suppose) and did a lot of strengthening work at the end range of motion for my hamstrings and hip flexors.  Also, I walked on the treadmill when I studied and took silly long strides, which loosens the hips up more than just about anything else I’ve found.  Started training again a little over 2 years ago, and it hasn’t given me problems since.

6.  SI joint dysfunctions.  It happens from time to time.  I just roll my piriformis, stretch my psoas, activate my abs and obliques, and I’m right as rain.

7.  Breaking and tearing a bunch of things in my left ankle:  Basketball injury.  Cast, brace, rehab.  Nothing too exciting.

8.  Torn right MCL (grade 2):  Football injury.  Protective brace.  Lots of VMO work.

9.  Broken fingers/toes/nose:  Took the “suck it up buttercup” approach.  Worked just fine.

10.  Concussions (at least one major one):  This is the main reason I stopped playing competitive sports.  Apparently my brain is a) extremely susceptible to concussions b) prone to swelling and hemorrhaging.  Not a good combination.  So I played it safe and took up lifting.

11.  Partially torn hamstrings:  This has happened several times, and always when sprinting.  Lots of bruising, pain, and weakness.  Inadequate warmup and anterior pelvic tilt are the main culprits I’m guessing.  I always make sure to warm up a LOT before I sprint now, and when I do, I just keep from shifting into “top gear.”  I miss being really fast like I was in school, but it’s not a quality that has presented itself as pressing enough to take the time to fix it.  I may work on that after my next meet when I have some down time.

That’s about it.  Hopefully this is a list that doesn’t grow much more.  I just want to point something out:  I made all my gains in the two prolonged periods of time (at least 2 years) that I did not sustain injuries that required time off.  Hard work + consistency = results.  Hard work and consistence must be balanced, though.  If you’re working too hard and getting hurt so that it impacts consistency, you’ll get suboptimal (or, probably, negative) results.  If you’re consistent to the point of training 4 hours per day, every day, odds are you aren’t working hard enough, or else you’d be dead (or you’re on the Chinese weightlifting team with as much sleep as desired, little outside stress, and perfect nutrition).  Getting that extra rep is never worth risking injury.  Don’t be a basket case and always expect injury, but know when you only have one or two more in the tank and rack the bar.

Furthermore, the stronger I get, the better my body feels.  I feel better, head to toe, right now than I did when I was 16.  As you learn to move more weight, you also need to learn twice as much about keeping your body feeling good.  A muscle in pain won’t contract with maximal force, and muscles crossing a joint that’s in pain also won’t contract with maximal force.  The better you feel, the stronger you’ll get.

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8 thoughts on “My injury history”

  1. Greetings from Japan,

    Slow day at work so I started to dig through your old articles. I gotta say that I love every post you’ve done. I don’t know if you read comments on old post but I currently suffer from an aching QL. About two months ago (maybe three) I suffered a partial tear which made it impossible to walk without a brace for 2-3 weeks. After I was able to walk without supports I took a two week vacation and felt great. When I came back I was able to squat regularly again. I was conservative and only did working sets of 3 with 90% of my 3RM (with some high rep 20 rep sets on my low volume days) but after a week of everyday squatting it seems that all too familiar burn is back.

    As someone who dealt with this do you have any advice? Should I just not squat as often or is it a matter of constantly loosening up those hips?

    1. It’s mainly just a matter of keeping everything stretched and loosened up. My QL still bothers me from time to time if I don’t stay on top of my stretching and foam rolling

  2. Hey Greg,

    Did you ever get around to making that PSOAS stretch video?

    I have been having some issues with my hip flexors and am trying to get any advice I can on proper warm-ups and stretching. For example, is it best to do static stretching or foam rolling before a workout or on off days? I hear conflicting advice about how to prepare for a lifting session, so I figured I’d ask. What does a typical warm-up routine look like for you?

    Also, for areas that have been previously injured (both hip flexors in my case), is there anything extra that can be done to prevent re-injury and speed recovery time? I’m guessing scarred tissue doesn’t recover as well as undamaged tissue, so does heating the area or taking any special precautions help?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. Nah, I haven’t gotten around to making it.

      With a warmup, you’re really just trying to do exactly what it sounds like – get the muscle warm. So just some light exercise for the targeted muscle (in the case of hip flexors, something like leg raises) should do the trick.

      If you’re consistently injuring them, there may be a technique issue, or it may be that they’re weak compared to the other muscles acting at the hip, and would potentially be a bit more resilient if you did some more work to strengthen them.

  3. Hey Greg,
    Love your stuff.
    Pulled my back only a couple days ago and my back is feeling pretty stiff (around the SI joint).
    Noticed that my hamstrings have tightened up immensely since the accident.
    How did you get back to pulling?

    1. Personally, I just gave it time, did a lot of mobility work, and started back with pulls that didn’t hurt as much (starting with high rack pulls, gradually moving down in height). Your mileage may vary

  4. Brandon O'Donnell

    What are you currently doing for your shoulder? I’m going through the same issue and would like any tips – has it gotten better or worse?

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