Patience With an Injury

Near the end of August, after a little over a year of training I got my blue belt. I was absolutely ecstatic. On the way home I grabbed the biggest burrito from Moe’s to celebrate. The following Monday I walked into the gym feeling newly leveled up. I drilled hard and rolled harder. For my final roll of the night, I grabbed one of my buddies and we started on our feet. Bumped fists. Slapped hands. It was go time. I went to my knee, grabbed his pant bottom and lifted his leg to a toe pick. I then stepped between his legs to do an inside trip. At the same time, he went to his butt to pull guard before I could take him to the ground myself. Instead of his butt finding the ground, it found my knee. I fell to the ground with nowhere else to go.

My first thought was, “It can’t end like this'' thinking of my love of the gentle art. Intense, nauseating pain radiated up and down my leg. My training partner looked horrified. Professor ran over and began talking to me, but I couldn’t hear over my knee screaming. Slowly I tried bending it and eventually got it to move. I hobbled off the mat and drove home thinking, “It’s probably fine.”

The next morning the pain was worse. I limped to the door to let the dogs out and the room began going dark. Quickly, I sat on the couch, sweating and watching the world go dark. About 3 second later I came back to reality. My good friend picked me up and we went to urgent care. 3 doctors visits and an MRI later, I’m told it’s an MCL strain and slight meniscus indication.

The first few weeks were easy. I was positive I wouldn’t let this injury get to me. I’d go to class and watch, trying to absorb the movements through my eyes. My teammates encouraged me saying I would be back at it in no time. But as the weeks progressed, it seemed to drag out. I started drilling at about 25%, treating my knee with high caution.

I felt like I lost a big part of my identity, unable to walk or jog, let alone train. I tried to pour my energy into projects around the house, but often found myself glued to the couch eating snacks. I started gaining more weight than I was comfortable with and generally avoiding looking at my scale. Multiple times, I ugly cried looking in the mirror feeling awful about my body, while struggling to slide into a pair of jeans. All my former body insecurities seemed to creep back in. I wanted to hide in sweatsuits so no one would see how much I had blown up (in reality, to others it was probably unnoticeable). The confident ground I stood on training Jiu-Jitsu seemed to have been ripped out from under me in one bad movement. Anger, frustration, and sadness became daily visitors in my headspace. 

I would like to tell you “I feel great now! I’ve crushed all my goals! I’m back to full time training and running” but dear reader, that's not quite true. The fact of the matter is, healing is a slow and patient process.  Patience with the healing as well as patience with yourself. Focus on “what CAN I do?” And not “what can’t I do”. Can I run 8 miles or drill 50/50? No. But I CAN bike, practice yoga, drill top side control, mount, and knee on belly. I CAN ice and elevate the knee while watching Netflix. I CAN go to class and support my teammates. I CAN make healthy eating choices. I CAN journal and reflect on my mental health.When you focus on the “can do’s” the healing will come. Without patience we have a tendency to jump right back in, increasing the likelihood of re-injury and an even longer recovery process. Be patient with yourself. The mats will always be there.


Coping with injuries in jiu jitsu

Caitlynn Reilly has been training for a year and a half and is a blue belt under Joshua Bowlin at Gracie Barra in Columbus, GA.