THE TENNIS WORLD was amazed and delighted in early September when 24-year old Sloane Stephens took home the Women’s US Open Grand Slam singles trophy in New York, NY. She had only returned to professional tennis action in July 2017, after being waylaid by a foot stress fracture that occurred in early 2016, which ultimately required surgery. The amazing part of the story is that after playing with pain, then months of rest waiting to see if the injury would heal itself, an additional 6 months of rest kept her from merely walking.
“In July”, a SHAPE.com article about her comeback indicates, “when she made her official return to the court, she was ranked 957th among female pro tennis players.” The September 9 victory made her the” lowest-ranked player to rebound and win the title in New York since computer ranking began in 1975, according to the US Open.”
In a MyFitnessPal.com blog piece Stephens writes how she coped with the injury, which she initially thought was “just another pesky problem that would go away”. When the injury-related pain diminished with rest but did not disappear, the next prescription was to wear a boot and wait another 10 weeks. Because the problem again did not resolve, further imaging was performed, and surgery was scheduled.
The post-surgical recovery period left her feeling “helpless” she said in the blog, “and she found herself getting depressed”. “For the first time in my life I could not exercise or travel, and I had very limited mobility” She decided to work on what she could control, her mental attitude and other aspects of the recovery, that included nutrition and physical therapy.
Stephens’ story has a happy ending. The last chapter of this particular tale of athletic injury has the heroine healing in record time and beating everyone in spectacular fashion. It’s an ending we all hope to write for ourselves when down and out with pain and dysfunction.
I am in the middle of a much less dire injury situation. There’s no fracture and no professional career on the line. But I’m in the period where there’s resting, non-surgical physical therapy, and waiting. There’s no guarantee in this middle period that my small injury will heal in a few more weeks. The imaging is yet to be performed which might provide information leading to additional weeks of rest and rehab work. Not knowing, like Stephens, I feel out of control. The journey started months ago, and there’s no immediate end in sight.
The several articles describing Sloane Stephens’ victory on the tennis court appeared JUST IN TIME to energize, inspire, and motivate me going forward! I had devised a plan of my own, to concentrate on the components of treatment and recovery over which I have control, just like she did. But then I read her MyFitnessPal.com article about coping. Not yet allowed to practice on her feet, she wheeled around the tennis court seated on a backless office chair while her coach tossed tennis balls in her direction. She became more involved in youth tennis and her own tennis foundation. And she watched a lot of tennis.
I realized that greater creativity might be needed to fuel a good attitude, develop a stronger resolve, and persevere in spite of big or small disheartening setbacks. Running involves more than merely moving forward on two sound legs. Definitely it also requires balance, flexibility, and strength. But it can also be about relationships, community responsibility, charity, and sportsmanship.
Stephens’ story suggests that the path to her brilliant win at the US Open might have begun when she faced and managed the difficulties that tested her spirit and developed her character during this time. The SHAPE.com article and a NYtimes.com item highlights how the new champion responded to friend Madison Keys, her US Open Finals opponent, immediately after the win. Stephens enveloped “Maddie” in a 19-second hug. Keys herself had worked to return to tennis after wrist injuries that year, which made her playing for the trophy a long shot.
Superior physical performance is certainly a key factor in athletic success, but it seems that true champions famously possess intangible traits for which they become beloved outside of sport. The average person can’t hope to compete at this level. However, perhaps we too might benefit athletically and personally from making the very best use of prolonged enforced rest and recovery time. Although of necessity focused inward on rehabilitation, we can also turn our attention and efforts outward.
The three articles are worth reading in their entirety. Runners and fitness enthusiasts who have recovered or are in the process of recovering from injury will be able to identify with the issues she struggled with during this period.
With so many devastated by natural disasters this past summer and caught up in ongoing conflict, we are able to gain new perspective of our own situations.
“Coping: Inside the Mind of Pro Tennis Player Sloane Stephens” by Sloane Stephens
“Sloane Stephens Beats Madison Keys to Claim U.S. Open Title” by Christopher Clarey
“The Epic Comeback Story of How Sloane Stephens Won the U.S. Open” by Lauren Mazzo http://www.shape.com/node/318069
BRIDGE TO PHYSICAL SELF
Running, walking, and fitness activities enable us to experience our physical selves in a world mostly accessed through use of fingers on a mobile device.
EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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