Written by Anna Kelly – 3 x Australian Representative and Private Practice Physiotherapist – Article –Originally posted on https://physiorunner.wordpress.com/ and reposted on RT with permission from the author. 

That’s a wrap! I’m now sitting on a plane heading from Rome to Dubai and then another 14-hour flight home to Melbourne after a big two weeks in Naples for the World University Games. Going in I was more than anxious. With a week before we were due to depart not knowing if I was fit to run; a cortisone in the foot, bone stress in my 4thmet and hamstring tendons that are still yet to be 100% pain free… it was always going to be taking a risk getting on that flight. Myself and my support crew didn’t know if I would get through the race, or even if I would be able to toe the start line.

In these situations, it’s always a battle of the mind. It’s tossing up risk verse reward, performance verse secondary complications and stubbornness verse an objective outlook. I knew I wouldn’t be going into the race feeling perfect, that my preparation was far from ideal and that it may be a case of getting through rather than personal bests. No doubt, it made me nervous, on edge and even scared! I felt like the rest of the Australian athletics team would be firing on all cylinders and I would be the sole ranger just trying to start and finish in one piece… how wrong I was!

When you line up on the start line prior to a race, you assume every other athlete is in tip top shape, feeling pb ready, not a niggle in sight. However, as we dwell in our own concerns of a pain here, an injury there we can be ignorant to the difficulties that other competitors are dealing with themselves. Spending more and more time with the team in the athlete’s village, meeting new people, chatting about training and racing it became clear that many of us were fighting our own battles leading in to competition day.

With a lot of time being spent with the team physios, I was able to witness the hordes of runners and field athletes flowing in and out in an attempt to mend and array of injuries… either prior ones coming into the games or new aches and pains that decided to rear their head at an extremely inconvenient time. Runners with tendonopathies, bursitis, plantar fasciitis, ITB syndrome, muscle strains and even navicular and metatarsal stress reactions. All pathologies that when training or racing through, can be extremely uncomfortable and extremely painful. This left many athletes only able to cross train or completely rest prior to competing in order to give themselves the best chance on race day. To bring the situation reality there were many a morning when the likes of myself, Paige Campbell, Riley Cocks, Izzi Batt-Doyle, Jye Perrott and many more were getting around the athlete village… ice applied to feet and knees, strapping providing any support possible and no shortage of dry needles prior to and post training. I think the only thing consumed more than pizza and pasta over the two weeks was Voltaren and Mobic.

Although I witnessed the many injuries that the team as a whole were tackling, one thing I never did see throughout the whole competition was an athlete throwing in the towel, giving up, saying this will hurt too much or I’m not willing to put myself out there and put it all on the line. All simply put their head down and did whatever they could do in their control in order to be in the best condition possible come competition day. Some against medical advice, some knowing they would pull up sore and maybe in a worse state than before and some knowing they wouldn’t be able to perform at their best. Yet each athlete was not going to sacrifice the chance to represent their country in the sport that they love, an opportunity that doesn’t come around all too often.

Although some people might view this as a reckless approach, I honestly found it inspiring and respected the true grit and determination that every suffering athlete demonstrated.

From this trip if I learnt anything, it’s that athletes are gutsy, they’re stubborn and bloody hell are they’re strong willed. When given the chance they’re going to give it all they have no matter what the circumstances. That when needed they will grit their teeth and put their head down in order to do what they can with what they’re working with on competition day.

So, when lining up for an event not in 100% condition… my physio side says: be careful, be smart and make the right decision! But my athlete side will always say: hang tough, go hard and have a crack! Because if I didn’t, I would have missed out on one of the best experiences of a lifetime!