When I’m catching up with other athletes and we’re talking about training, one of the first questions we asked each other is if we’re healthy.  There is rarely an athlete who doesn’t have something bothering them, an old injury flaring up, or a new one that might be seriously hindering them.
 
To get to the top, you not only have to train smart and hard, you have to be lucky. There are people who were great athletes but who were stopped from reaching their peak due to injury, unfavorable circumstances, or freak accidents.
 
I forget where I heard it, but apparently javelin has the second highest rate of injury in track and field (triple jump is the first). Think about it the actual mechanics of the javelin throw: we run as fast as we can, then stop ourselves with a straight left leg while torquing the rest of our body around that like a high speed cork screw, to ultimately whip a spear out of our hand. When breaking down film at different points to look at technique, the body looks contorted, and if you’re doing it right, broken. It takes years to develop the technique, flexibility, and specific strength to be able to hit those positions with speed and power. I think there are very few javelin throwers who haven’t had some kind of injury on their pursuit to be world class.
 
In my career I’ve had a lot of minor injuries, but the major ones that have kept me from competing, training, or progressing have been:

- 2007: Achilles’ tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, and bursitis in left foot
- 2005, 2007, 2010: UCL (elbow ligament) sprains, tendonitis, and minor tear
- 2011: Lower back problems in sacroiliac joint (from incorrect throwing technique)
- 2012: 3rd degree contusion (really big, deep bruise) on right quad
 
I’ve been lucky enough that none of my injuries were career ending, though there were times when I thought they might be, and it’s a devastating feeling. The biggest scares for me were my back and leg injuries.
 
The “donkey kick”, as my coach so eloquently calls it, is the feeling you get when you hit your block wrong and your lower back/top of your left hip gets crushed. In 2011 I did this every throw, and one day at practice, my body decided it’d had enough:  my left (block leg) crumbled underneath me.  My sacroiliac joint was exceptionally inflamed as a result of my poor technique. A new focus was to fix my technique and create a “tubular” core – thanks to my coach’s program, by summer 2012 I had better block and an extra 4 inches of muscle around my waist.


30 minutes after hit and 3 weeks post hi

In January 2012, I was hit by a hammer. We train indoors during the winter, and javelin and hammer throwers took turns throwing inside a net that dropped from the ceiling. Long story short, I didn’t know hammer wires could break, and therefore didn’t realize that where I was standing to wait my turn was a poor choice. The wire snap and 16lbs of hammer ball bounced off the ground and into my leg. I saw it coming and had zero time to react. The shock made me feel as if I was going to throw up. After a few minutes, I got up and was able to hobble to the ice bath. When I woke up the next morning and moved to get out of bed, I actually did throw up from the pain. I realized that I couldn’t contract my quad, and I had a “dead leg”, which led me to believe that my Olympic dreams were gone.  The next day, I decided that there was no way I was going to let this stop me, I put on my happy face and started rehab: minimum 3 ice baths a day, range of motion work when I could move my leg, athletic therapy once my humongous bruise had gone down and I could bear for someone to work on it. I couldn’t throw for a month and a half, so I visualized. The first time I was able to twitch my quad was a month after the incident, and I knew it would be alright.  Other than the dent in my muscle and some weakness, I was fully recovered by season.
 
Although injuries are tough, stressful and painful, they have made me a better athlete and given me a sense of appreciation for all that I can do. They made me learn how to focus, and truly understand what it means to want something with every fiber of my being. Every success from 2012 was that much sweeter given all that I had gone through to improve.

Despite the self-discovery that stemmed from being injured, I've learned my lesson: I now always find a safe spot when circle throws are happening.

Liz´s Blog

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