If you’ve ever thought a sports injury would stop you exercising or playing your favourite sport ever again, Chris Peil from the Move Well Project has some good news for you.
“My role as a rehabilitator is to support people in being able to do the activities that they want to do, at the level that they want to do them, without having the injury,” he says.
Like many of us, Chris knows what it’s like to have a health care professional tell you to give up – but understands that could simply be in order to avoid straining already stretched NHS resources.
“The easiest way to stop somebody being injured from an activity that they’re doing is to not do the activity. So we will often get the advice ‘Oh that hurts you stop doing that’…
“So it’s a different mentality – it’s much more like a professional sport mentality of ‘Okay we’ve got this person who has an injury, and we’re actually going to help them to get back to fitness for what they want to do’ as opposed to ‘oh it’s unfortunate this person’s injured, they can no longer do that’.”
Refreshingly, the mentality he refers to involves being proactive in your recovery, not passive.
“One of the big issues – and this is what the Move Well Project is about – is that, traditional therapy, traditional medicine tends to take the view that the person comes in and something is done to them.
“They are given a medication or they are given a massage and they just lie there, they do nothing.
“In reality that is not how you get conditioned back – to being resilient enough to do the activity without a normalised risk of injury.”
Chris has helped people ranging from registered disabled who want to improve their quality of life, right through to “the strongest guy to have ever walked the planet”.
We’re talking Eddie Hall, who was crowned the World’s Strongest Man in 2017.
Anyone who’s seen the 30-year-old from Newcastle-under-Lyme in action will know he can dead-lift half a tonne – that’s the weight of a horse.
I was also pretty impressed by a one-armed “human dumb-bell” display on Instagram!
And yes, Eddie Hall gets injured too – most recently his hip.
“Ed’s injury was from pushing the boundaries, so anyone who’s in elite sport is having to push the boundaries of how much stress you can create in training and then recover from in order to get to be higher performance,” says Chris.
However, there is a difference – in that Eddie Hall incorporates the idea of recovery into his tough, well-documented training regime.
“He focussed on the other side of the equation, because it’s easy to create stress, creating stress in training is quite easy, recovering from that stress enough to actually be fitter, stronger, that’s the thing that you can actually potentially speed up and that’s where he focussed.”
This incorporated plenty of sleep, correct nutrition, hydration, “hands-on therapy” and even using a hyperbaric chamber to increase his oxygen supply.
“It’s the Yin to the Yan…” says Chris “He balanced out everything he was doing with the most recovery work he could possibly do.”
Chris does see plenty of people who want to train like a Champion without deploying the necessary life-style changes.
Okay, maybe not a hyperbaric chamber.
But one of the most common mistakes, Chris says, is that people will “throw themselves in very quickly once they get effectively ‘signed-off’ by the physio – ‘yes you’re okay to train again’.”
Instead, a gradual, balanced approach is the key – and the good news is – if you’re careful, you can still challenge yourself, even in the process of recovery.
“Too much stress too quickly increases injury risk, not enough stress means that it’s not resilient enough for the demands.”
Chris also believes wearable technology, which gauges things like your heart-rate and even sleep quality, can lead to a more tailored training approach.
But a lot of his work is simply about helping people cope.
He sites examples of helping one woman avoid spinal surgery and “another lady literally had a broken back and we got her back to be able to function when she’d been off work for a significant period of time”.
So there you have it, it would appear there is hope for everyone!
Although I’m sure Chris would stress that – if you do have a sports injury – it’s still important to see your doctor or a health care professional before making a comeback.