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Training Around Pain: Breaking the Injury Cycle

If you feel like you are constantly injured or continue to exacerbate an old injury then this post is for you!


In competitive sports, players can fall into what I call an injury cycle. For example, a player sprains their ankle. There is some pain and swelling and the player takes a few days off waits for the pain to go away and then starts to play again. Two weeks later the ankle is injured again. The player again takes a few days to a week off and then starts to play. Later in the season the player again injures that same ankle. This player is stuck in an injury cycle. They may try to use ice, rest, and a brace to treat the injury but all of those are passive methods that are not addressing the root of the injury.


Risk Factors to the Injury Cycle

  • A risk factor to injury is a pre-existing injury

  • R.I.C.E: Only using this recovery method is a passive treatment and not addressing the root of the injury

  • Lack of active recovery methods

  • Not modifying training accommodate the injury

Active v.s Passive Recovery

There is a time and place for both active and passive recovery methods.

  • Common passive recovery methods: Ice, Rest, Taping, Massage, and Bracing

  • Common active recovery methods: rehabilitation exercises, modifying training, and movement

Most player that are stuck in the injury cycle depend on passive recovery methods and do not allow themselves to take the necessary time and training modifications to reduce further risk of injury. Passive recovery methods are best used immediately after an injury* and only for a short period of time following injury. Active recovery methods are best used as long term recovery and they are the key to helping break an injury cycle. The first step to active recovery is modification of training variables.


  • Training Variables : Frequency, volume, and intensity

  • For a short period of time decrease frequency, volume, and intensity of your typical activity that causes exacerbation to your injury


Next consult with a physical therapist to come up with a rehabilitation plan to decrease pain, improve strength, and get you back on the field at 100%

  • Continue to move!

  • Incorporate exercises that target the area of injury

  • Slowly reintroduce movements that have historically caused pain

  • Improve versatility, strength, and mobility to decrease risk of future injury

Lastly, take control of your recovery.

You know your body better than anyone and you need to listen to what it needs

  • Do not rush back to playing if you do not feel ready to do so

  • Talk to your coach and discuss a return to play plan

  • Remember that longevity in your sport depends on your health. Do not risk returning to the game too quickly and risk another injury that will further delay your return to sport.

As always please feel free to reach out with questions. Together we can change the world of Women's soccer!


*Timelines given are always dependent on the specific injury. Always consult with a medical provider (MD, PT, APRN) regarding best course of action for your specific injury*


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