Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Surgery need not be career-ending for athletes

WE ALL know that athletes have a short career. It can be shorter still if they were to suffer a serious injury.

We also know that injuries are part and parcel of an athlete’s career.

So, what do they do if they get injured? And what happens if the injury is serious enough to warrant surgery?

Do they go under the knife? Do they just leave it be and hope it will heal (in time)? Or do they try alternative healing - say, traditional treatment?

Many top athletes have undergone surgeries and returned stronger. But it’s also true that some never quite recaptured their form of old after returning from the operating theatre.

So, it doesn’t really surprise me to read about badminton mixed doubles ace Goh Liu Ying’s uncertainty about going under the knife for her knee injury.

I don’t know how serious her injury is. But if someone of authority like National Sports Institute (NSI) chief executive officer (CEO) Datuk Dr Ramlan Abdul Aziz has recommended her to go for surgery, then I guess it must be quite serious.

I can understand her apprehension. She has, after all, forged a formidable partnership with Chan Peng Soon and any surgery will see her being ruled out of action for between four and eight months.

That’s an eternity for athletes these days. And Liu Ying is aware that it could even mark the end of her partnership with Peng Soon.

Another worry for Liu Ying is that there are three major tournaments coming up this year - the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championships.

Now, there is no guarantee that the surgery will be 100% risk-free. No surgery is, for that matter.
Dr Ramlan raised a pertinent point when he said that the longer she puts off the inevitable, the worse it would become. As it is, Liu Ying has been living with the nagging injury since 2008.

Liu Ying must understand that her healing process involves two parties - the surgeon and herself.
Yes, the surgeon can repair her knee on the operating table. But the real - and hard - work comes when she leaves the operating theatre.

That’s when all the values and virtues she has learned as an athlete - discipline, dedication, determination and perseverance - will come into play. She will need all those values - and more - when she begins her rehabilitation programme.

I, for one, can vouch for that as I have gone under the knife five times (six including for appendicitis). Three of those surgeries were for my right knee (torn anterior cruciate ligament) and two for my right shoulder (dislocated). And I’m now into half-marathons. So, obviously the surgery worked for me.

Rehabilitation can be a long and tedious programme. It’s repetitive. It’s boring. And it’s painful.
You need to be strong - physically and mentally - and equally determined to do your rehab properly and intensively.

It’s basically a psychological battle - mind over matter, if you would.
But do it, you must. There will be days when you feel like just quitting, especially as you continue doing the basic exercises day in, day out.

But Liu Ying is still young, just 24. She is fit and strong (she must be if she has been playing on despite the injury). So, I am sure she will be able to handle the rehabilitation.

The one motivating force for her will surely be the desire to continue playing at the top level.
The other thing Liu Ying must remember is that medical science has improved by leaps and bounds.
When I went for my first surgery, it was done the old way - where they basically cut open your knee to replace the ligament. I only began my rehab one month after surgery.

Nowadays, they use the keyhole method. It is minimally invasive, doesn’t leave huge scars and heals faster. And you begin your rehab the very next day!

But the decision is still Liu Ying’s. Modern or traditional? It’s her call.

Sports Editor R. Manogaran is truly in awe of the athletes who overcame their injuries to rise to the top of their game. They epitomise everything that sport stands for - courage, determination, dedication, perseverance, competitiveness and self-belief.

by Starsport editor R. Manogaran

No comments: