Over the past nine plus years as a strength coach, student athletic trainer, or even as an athlete. I cannot even count the number of times I have heard a line like this; “it hurts but I can do it”.

Most of us grew up with the moto “pain is just weakness leaving the body”. Now that I have a two-year-old son I know where we start to ingrain that thinking. Every time he falls or gets a “boo boo” we say shake it off, rub some dirt on it, or oh you’re fine. We are taught to be tough and to fight through pain. However my question to you is when does pain become too much?

Now I am in a equine situation due to my resume of work I tend to see more athletes that are injured or in pain than are not.  The first think I try to figure out is what causes the pain. If we can isolate what the athlete is doing that creates the pain then we simply have to look that athlete, parent, or coach and tell them “Stop doing that”. It’s rather simple if it hurts we don’t do it! Now don’t get me wrong I have played through pain many times when I was an athlete.

What we need to understand is what is appropriate to play through and what can cause us to set ourselves up for greater injury. Here is a great example; last year one of our right-handed college pitchers (remember the right handed part) came in after the season and mentioned he had been shut down with elbow pain. I asked a few more questions which lead him mentioning that he hurt his left knee about halfway through the year. I asked how long after the knee injury did the elbow start to hurt and I got the answer I wanted to hear, a few weeks.

I looked at him and mentioned why did you keep pitching with your lead leg being injured? And he had no response other than no one told him not too. Truth be told if he had just shut it down for a few weeks and came back he wouldn’t have had elbow pain. We have all heard about the kinetic chain and how one thing affects another. What had happen was he had altered his mechanics to lessen the amount of load he was placing on his lead leg. This was causing him to use more arm in his mechanics and placing more drag on the arm as he followed through. All of which contributed to adding stress on the UCL.

The next time you see an injury make sure it won’t cause more hard then good. Yes some injuries you can play through but some you should just take a seat. My favorite line that I use in the weight room with my athletes all the time is “does it hurt?” if they say yes then I tell them to “stop doing it”. 

Who says everyone has to squat, deadlift, or do Olympic lifts. I tell my athletes’ all the time I have about a hundred different ways I can accomplish what I want so do not feel bad if we have to change the game plan. We stick to our progressions and regressions, which allows us to work with so many athletes’ that have issues. We progress slowly with pain as our guide for what we can and cannot do. 

Here are some takeaways:

·      If it hurts don’t do it and use pain as a guide for what they can and can’t do.

·      Ask detailed questions and get a full injury history so you know the whole story.

·      Never assume anything, always ask (This one is big for me I drive my athletes nuts by always asking them how does that feel, and does that hurt).

·      Create a solid progression and regression system of exercises. Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS).