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Everyone deals with trauma differently. Me? I have had a massive history of injuries since I was a little kid, which was a headache for my parents. 

I was super active and would never run out of energy.

I had stitches on my head, ears, and knee. 

I even almost got second degrees burns. I visited the hospital at least 2 times per year for 5-6 years.

So, since a little kid, I have been dealing with pain, and at some point, it became routine.

I grew up and started playing basketball. Not long after, injuries began to pile up. 

I rolled both of my ankles four times. In 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2017.

Ruptured my right Achilles and rolled my ankle again (outside of basketball) in 2018.

Had a partial LCL rupture on my right knee (outside of basketball) in 2019.

Completely fucked my right knee (ACL, LCL, and meniscus) in 2021. The crazy part? I never did MRI the first time because I thought it was nothing. Three weeks later, I could walk and use my knee.

You guessed it. 

I was WRONG. I played basketball like 4 months later, and my knee gave up.

I had the complete diagnosis in September 2022 and my surgery on December 4, 2022.

All this, without counting a shoulder injury and a minor chest injury.

If my body could talk to me, he would insult me in every language possible. My legs never reached their full strength potential because of my injuries and lack of knowledge. I never trained them properly.

After every injury, you lose strength and mobility. If you don’t work and get it back, you’re dead in the water and basically very prone to reinjure yourself.

Believe it or not, my biggest injuries were always outside of playing basketball, except for the last one.

I’m not planning on reinjuring myself or being unconscious and irresponsible.

ACL and meniscus are by far the worst injuries you can have. I do not wish this on anyone, even my worst enemy (I don’t have one.)

By reading this article. You’re gonna enter the mind of an injury catalogue in person. How I’m able to overcome this mentally and get back to the field without fear.

I’m not saying I have magic tricks because I don’t. But I’m qualified from my perspective to give you practical tips on overcoming tough injuries and staying healthy physically and mentally.

Most of my out-of-sports injuries are stupid as hell. One was because I was chased by 3 security guards in Barcelona, and I jumped from like 20 feet in height and landed on a bar’s couch. That’s how I ruptured my Achilles and rolled my ankle.

You might think I’m out of my mind, and yes, I was kind of unscared of the consequences. 

Acting without thinking as a whole.

I won’t get into the entire story, but in summary, it happened on my first day of travel. I wasn’t able to walk for 3-4 weeks. 

It was tough mentally, but I got through it and still enjoyed my trip.

I was able to play basketball again around 6 months later (5 vs 5 games)

How to Achieve Mental Clarity

The first two weeks of the injury are always the worst. The pain is at its highest, and you can’t stop thinking about how it happened, why it happened to you, and how you will deal with it.

I was so used to getting injured that the first two weeks were like getting rid of the flu.

I was aware of the pain and that it would last at least two weeks. 

Instead of beating myself up, I was cheering and telling myself how many days were left before the pain would go down and eventually disappear.

The sooner you deal with it and get used to the pain, the easier it will be.

Pain is a signal your brain perceives from your body, and it’s all in your mind. Yes, it’s present, and it’s not an illusion. 

But every person has a different pain tolerance. Believe it or not, you can practice your pain tolerance. It can be influenced by anxiety and depression.

Personally, I’ve never dealt with depression. But I’ve experienced anxiety in some situations.

Other than that, I’m aware of my feelings and how to deal with them.

Pain is a feeling you can learn how to deal with.

At some point, it becomes normal. 

To put you in a higher context. Some human beings have elite training and can handle torture and extreme pain without giving up information. 

Something that is labelled as being “tough.”

We certainly don’t need to experience torture or self-harm to toughen up. 

But we certainly can teach ourselves pain tolerance and become mentally strong.

I’m a nobody, and I was able to do it.

How I Avoid Depression

Patients who sustain an ACL injury can suffer from symptoms of depression, especially during the first 6 weeks after ACL reconstruction. Depressive symptoms are more common among professional versus nonprofessional athletes. Levels of anxiety symptoms were not above the cutoffs for a diagnosis of anxiety after an ACL injury. Source: Sagepub

I don’t have a history of depression, and I know it is a sensitive topic. 

What I’m about to share is my perspective. So, please read it with a grain of salt. You can learn, or you can rant.

I have never heard of depression before the age of 17. It was very new to me when I heard and read about it, and I’ve never felt nor experienced what was described.

So, I thought it would never happen to me, and I would never let it happen to me.

I promised myself that if it did happen to me, I would use it as a source of motivation to get back to the way I was before.

All of it says that if you experience depression after surgery, know you’re not alone. Imagine being a professional athlete and having to deal with not playing the sport you love, self-doubt, and a lack of purpose.

I mean, it is a really dark place that you must keep yourself out of. 

Otherwise, you’ll get depressed and lose the purpose of life.

My ACL surgery helped me take a forced rest from work. 

Something I’m not able to do very often.

I’m not gonna lie. It was one of the toughest times in my life (mentally and financially.)

Being a solopreneur and forced to rest was very difficult for me. I felt like I’m gonna be running behind my goals.

I tried to use the computer, but I couldn’t even stare at the screen for more than 30 minutes without getting a headache.

The medication was too strong. Once I finished it, my body was used to it, and I had constant headaches.

Instead of beating myself up. I scheduled time to watch Netflix, time to read, and time to write.

If your surgery puts you in a spot where you can’t do what you love. Have the courage to explore many new things.

You might get bored, but you might also get surprised. You must stay physically active (physiotherapy exercises) and mental exercises (mindfulness and visualization.)

The goal is to avoid depression. Not to get depressed and figure out how to get out of it.

I might not be the person you want advice from because I’ve never experienced it. 

But think of it another way, how comes I’ve never dealt with it?

What have I done differently? I’m not that special.

My answer to this question may sound stupid, but it’s stupid simple.

I always find a reason to be and stay happy, regardless of my physical or mental state.

This might require some work on your spirituality. But, I firmly believe that having faith in God and believing 100% that you are happy even if you don’t feel at your 100% is what can help you get through life without feeling hopeless.

The best example I can give you is the gym. You probably had days when you felt like shit and still went to the gym. To your surprise, you hit a PR (personal record.)

The same principle applies. You might feel like shit and don’t want to do shit with your day. But there might be something good waiting for you that day.

If you don’t believe in God, I can’t help you visualize it. If you do, understand that God put you in this situation for a reason.

You might need to get mentally stronger for a future event that you can’t handle with your actual state of mind?

There are plenty of reasons why you should be grateful for your situation, even if it’s terrible.

And you know what? That’s exactly what happened to me. It’s not like it’s the worst thing on earth. People are dealing with 10x worse than me. And again, it might be for a reason.

This situation helped me reconsider my entire purpose and what I wanted to do with my life. Not because of the injury itself but because of what I could think about while resting, something I wouldn’t have done if I wasn’t forced to do it.

I’m writing this particular article because of it. I can think clearly for an extended period without worrying about work. Even so, I haven’t a source of income.

I avoid depression because I know I can’t afford to be in depression. I have goals to achieve and a knee to repair.

You put your mind where it has to be. Take control of your thoughts before they take control of you. 

The difference between a successful and unsuccessful post-injury athlete is proper rehabilitation. But most importantly, mindset.

If all you think about is how your life is miserable because of your injury, chances are you won’t get back the way you were.

Overcoming Physical Challenges

Becoming stronger than before is not impossible. But you have to work hard.

I know I can become stronger than before. I’ve never reached my full potential.

My ultimate goal is to weigh 75kg/165lb and squat 2.5x my body weight in the upcoming three years. 

That’s 4 plates. Before my surgery, my max squat was 275 lb at 180 lb body weight. I consider it weak, but somehow I was stronger than 42% of male lifters my age, weighing 180 lb, source: strenghtlevel. I’ve never gone beyond because of my ruptured ACL. 

Getting back an RM of 275lb is my primary goal, obviously. Next would be 315, 330, 375, and then 405lb.

I’m not gonna be playing high-level basketball. But this sport plays a huge role in my life and my overall happiness. Ball is life takes its true meaning with me. I won’t play with people who don’t know how to play basketball. 

I got injured because someone didn’t know how to play proper defense.

We can’t avoid everything, but I’ll be more cautious and selective. I play basketball to stay in shape and not to get injured by morons.

I won’t complain about how I got injured. The big reason why I got injured is because of me. At the end of the day, my legs weren’t strong enough in the first place. It’s easy to blame someone else, but when I see it from a different perspective, I understand that our choices result in progress or failures. In both cases, you learn and move on.

Having a protocol is crucial in your rehab. You can’t go on with your life without proper exercises with clear goals and milestones. You’ll be surprised by how weak your knee is when you think you’re all good to go in your third and fourth months.

One thing I want to avoid at all costs is having to deal all over again with surgery and another rehab. That’s my biggest motivation for taking seriously every single exercise I do.

Do Your Damn Research

I can’t stress this enough. Tell the ignorant who never went to the doctor after his injuries (guilty.) I’m the best place to tell you that google is priceless. I was binging ACL content before and after the surgery. I wanted to know every possible mistake to avoid before and after the surgery.

What should I do? What shouldn’t I do? I was very disgusted that I won’t be able to play basketball for at least one year, at least

What are the most common mistakes after ACL surgery?

I wasn’t surprised, but I wasn’t aware of them all. Hopefully, I will learn about them soon enough.

  1. Not starting physiotherapy soon enough (1-2 days after surgery)
  2. Neglecting the mind-muscle connection exercises
  3. Not following the protocol strictly
  4. Poor nutrition (not enough proteins)
  5. Wrong rehab program/exercises
  6. Bad sleeping habits
  7. Restarting sports too soon

If you want to learn more about ACL rehab as a whole. I highly recommend you watch this channel.

I’m not an expert by any means. I follow a lot of experts online and try to gather as much information as possible to determine what makes sense and what doesn’t.

I took a lot of inspiration from professional athletes who dealt with ACL injuries, such as Klay Thompson, Spencer Dinwiddie (he has videos of his rehab on YouTube,) Jamal Murray, and Zach Lavine. 

Many great athletes have suffered from this injury, and many have returned to their previous level. Technology has evolved, and things changed a lot. 10 years ago, your career was over if you had an ACL injury (a common injury among athletes.)

You have to deal with it mentally and physically; both aspects are crucial in a holistic recovery. Consume the content of people who overcame this injury and do not listen to those who say that you won’t ever do this or that again. Bullshit. I don’t listen to bullshit, and you shouldn’t either.

I will definitely write a second article on this matter. Probably a year from now.

You can send me a DM on Instagram or LinkedIn. I’d love to connect with you and chat more about any injury or surgery you have experienced.

About imed djabi

I explore the intersection of passions and business.

I am a minimalist, and multi-passionate currently obsessed with the creator economy, branding & web design.

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