This month it is two years since I injured my knee and had an operation to repair my meniscus ligament.
It’s odd because part of me processes it as if it was yesterday. I remember exactly how I felt, sometimes so strongly that I can cry, and I remember exactly what I was thinking at the time.
But there’s also a part of my that recognises it was two years ago, and that during the last two years so much has changed. Then it feels like a lifetime ago.
One of the instances, when my injury feels like it was just a blink of an eye ago, is right before a game of roller derby. I had hoped that transferring to a new league would solve the anxiety, due to the change of routine and surroundings. Unfortunately, this last weekend proved that this was not true – well not entirely anyways.
There are two things I think that contribute to my pre-game, post-injury anxiety. The first is this weird thought that I cannot trust my left knee. When I injured my knee, I was told that sports would be particularly hard to return to and I would likely need a second operation. I had to relearn how to walk, run and go upstairs. At 22 I found this particularly traumatic and had counselling to try and process the effects my injury was having on my independence.
Since then I’ve returned to completely normal activity. My left knee very very rarely feels any differently to my right knee, and when it does it’s because I’ve rolled over the scar tissue in my knee (which feels like a grain of sand in the joint). But in the back of my mind I have a niggle that it was once injured and it once let me down.
This is a result of the second contributor to my pre-game, post-injury anxiety, which is that I returned from a knee niggle to normality before I seriously injured my knee.
I originally injured my knee in the April against Bristol Roller Derby, missed a couple of games including SKOD (sob) and then returned to normality (still some pain, but relatively pain-free) for a couple of months, before finally injuring my knee properly against the Seaside Siren Roller Girls in November.
The injury in November was the result of rolling over track tape while transitioning.
This has left me with a doubt on my knee and a weird lack of trust in my own left leg.
The thing is that as soon as the first whistle goes for a game I forget about all this and focus on the game ahead. I also don’t think it has a great effect on my game. But in the lead up to a game… WOW I am nervous.
Knowing this, I am working hard to try and eradicate this element of my pre-game. I don’t want to feel like I can’t trust my left knee. I also don’t want my mind to play tricks on me before a roller derby game, making me question my strength.
Pre-game, post-injury nerves
I have previously read Mind Gym but I struggled to take exercises from it. A friend recommended The Mental Edge, so I’ve started reading that. I’m personally finding this book much better than the Mind Gym. But having only started a week before my weekend away with the Brawl Saints I really wasn’t practiced enough to implement what I’d been learning.
As a result, I went into the Newcastle game nervous and twinged my knee in the second to last jam of the game. Thankfully, it feels absolutely fine now, and I skated the next day against Middlesborough without any twinges.
For me, it just reaffirmed how important strengthening my mental game is, as I am 100% sure any future knee niggles will be purely the result of my own overthinking rather than any physical limitations.
So I’m going to focus on this during my off season. I’m going to strengthen my body but also apply a new focus to strengthening my mind, in an aim to get rid of my pre-game, post-injury nerves.
It begins with The Mental Edge and these self-confidence tips delivered straight to your inbox by Mark Tyrell, and after some other resources it results in a more mentally resilient Flo feeling more excited than nervous before a game!
If you have any tips on the mental side of roller derby please let me know! I’d be really interested to hear them. You can comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.