The mental side is always as important as the physical when rehabbing and returning from a serious injury.
Although Andrew Luck’s retirement surprised the football world, a closer look at what he has been saying might have given us hints about his mindset.
Luck went through a lot during his two years recovering from a shoulder injury.
“I’m in pain; I’m still in pain,” he said Saturday night. “It’s been four years of this pain, rehab cycle. It’s a myriad of issues — calf strain, posterior ankle impingement, high ankle sprain. Part of my journey going forward will be figuring out how to feel better. … “After 2016, where I played in pain and was unable to regularly practice, I made a vow to myself that I would not go down that path again. I find myself in a similar situation. And the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football and this cycle that I’ve been in. I’ve come to the proverbial fork in the road. And I made a vow to myself if I ever did again, I would choose me in a sense.”
It had become clear Luck would not be 100 percent to start this season, and realistically it would have taken much longer.
This decision is grounded in Luck being honest about the mental struggle that is at the heart of every recovery, rehab and return to play.
The mental side of injury is significant — far more significant than anyone can imagine until they have been through it.
First, there is the devotion to rehabilitation. Luck has worked his way back several times. He knows what it takes and knows that not being fully devoted to that process is a recipe for failure.
Then there is the willingness to put your body on the line again.
For example, when coming back from an ACL tear, I tell patients they won’t be past the mental component until they take a big hit and are able to dust themselves off and realize their knee is OK.
Luck’s frustration is that over his six-year career he has dealt with shoulder issues, a lacerated kidney, rib/cartilage issues, concussion, an abdominal wall issue and the current calf/ankle injury.
Given that it has been almost six months and the calf/ankle issue had not distinct end in sight, the surprising announcement makes more sense.
Most professional athletes, especially at a position like quarterback, are Type-A personalities. They have always done whatever it takes and in many cases willed their success.
Luck mentioned that he was tired of the pain, and his frustration at not being able to rid himself of the constant setbacks likely played a big role in this decision.