Have you ever felt down and out with an injury that just won't go away...has the medical community advised you to "change sports" or stop all together, have you tried different treatments without success and feel overwhelmed with what to do next... ...And what about when everybody else has counted you out of the game...and the odds are stacked against you...and it's the "4th quarter" of your recovery...
...that's when you need to rely on your hours of preparation, early morning drills, the belief in your system, your unwavering passion, and find that final gear to reach your goal. There is a lot to take away from the amazing win by the New England Patriots over the Atlanta Falcons in the 2017 Superbowl. For so many reasons it will go down as the greatest Superbowl ever. Like them or hate them, the Patriots overcame the greatest deficit in Superbowl history. Yes, the talent of their players and coaches was part of the reason for their victory; however, the real reason they came back to win was GRIT. Recently, Angela Duckworth in her book 'Grit' defines grit simply as "perseverance and passion for long-term goals." Duckworth goes on to describe 5 common characteristics of grit.
There are many forms of courage such as taking a risk when others won't, the ability to overcome fear, getting up again and again in the face of failure. It's important to remember here that all failure isn't bad. In fact, you can often learn more from failure than from success. Like the Patriots in the Superbowl, trying different offensive strategies and coming up with little success through 3 quarters of play...It took 3 quarters of failing to figure out what was going to be successful.
Sometimes the same is true in rehabilitation. If one avenue in treatment doens't yield ideal results you need to keep on systematically adopting new strategies until something sticks.
This applies to being "achievement oriented" and working diligently at every task no matter how big or small. The Patriots have done this for 16 years by defining specific jobs and defining exact details to succeed at that job. Achievement for the Patriots revolves around executing at every detail and that's why their motto, "Do your job" resonates and motivates every player.
Recovering from injury often requires consistent practice of simple but important exercises and movements. Being conscientious by not only doing what is required each day in your rehab (your "job") plan but also being focused on using the right muscles and movements during each exercise is huge.
It's not just about doing rehab exercises...It's about using the right muscles and movements.
3. Perseverance -- "Sticking With It."
Being able to continue on even in the face of adversity and seemingly insurmountable odds defines perseverance. I am sure the Patriots, being down 28-9 at the end of the 3rd quarter, were feeling a great deal of adversity and maybe even thinking no other team has ever overcome this large of a deficit...
The reality is that the TEAM pushed through even though many stats and predictions were running through their heads telling them coming back to win would be a miracle. All they had to do was look back at every practice, previous game, and workout in the gym and remember ALL the other adversities that they overcame to even get to that point in the game.
Maybe you have had your injury for months or even years thinking the whole time, "Is this ever going to get better?" Each day of cross training, physical therapy exercises, and strength training are small challenges improving your will to stick it out till you achieve your goal of a full recovery.
Similar to perseverance, resilience relates to physical, and more importantly, mental toughness.
The research being done in this area suggests that optimism is key to resilience. Believing it's going to work out, despite the odds, is crucial.
Surrounding yourself with friends, family, teammates, coaches, and medical professionals who believe in what you are trying to achieve and will run beside on the journey is a must. Unfortunately, the easy answer in medicine is to stop whatever activity that brings on your pain as if its the activity itself versus how you are performing the activity.
With mental toughness your "why" for doing what you do has to be stronger than your pain. Embrace the pain as part of the process, and once you overcome it, that journey will motivate you to greater things.
It goes without saying that Tom Brady is passionate about the game of football. After playing for many seasons, he has not lost his zeal for the game. Even after he tore his ACL tear, which ends many players careers, he came back better than before. One of those reasons is his love for the game.
As you are going through your rehabilitation, take time to think about your races, games, tournaments, and think about all the things that bring you joy and fulfillment. Your passion is a huge motivator for success. If you simply can't reach that place where you can think about your sport with intensity and desire, then start listening to motivational speakers, coaches, and anyone who is passionate about what they do. Passion is infectious.
Do You Have Grit?
If you want to find out more about your grittiness, check out Duckworth's "Grit Scale".
Don't settle for giving up on your sport, don't let those around tell you it's not possible, don't stop giving your best effort day in and day out because you never know when your "4th quarter Patriots comeback" moment will happen.
Kevin Vandi, DPT, OCS, CSCS
Dr. Vandi is the founder of Competitive EDGE Physical Therapy — with his background in physical therapy, orthopedics, and biomechanics, he is a highly educated, compassionate specialist. Using state-of-the-art motion analysis technology and data-driven methodologies, Kevin has assisted a wide range of clients, from post-surgery patients to youth and professional athletes. When he isn’t busy working or reading research, he spends his time with his wife Chrissy and their five wonderful children, often enjoying the outdoors and staying committed to an active lifestyle.