There’s a common misconception that someone should stop training when they have an acute injury. That is in fact wrong and it is a primary reason that people begin to ignore and resist medical advice. Forcing someone to stop training also adds to the psychological burden of being injured, the mourning of the loss of function and training time. It also atrophies the rest of the uninjured body.
So why should one train with an acute injury? There are several reasons. First, it promotes healing through increased blood flow and the body benefits from the cross-over effect, or the fact that training one side of the body will lead to similar adaptations in the other. It also keeps the body’s sense of training and discipline intact, a big problem that often occurs when a very serious injury or other event forces someone out of activity for a prolonged period of time. It’s far easier to keep someone’s training regimen in place if they’re continuing to train, even if it’s at a reduced level, than to bring them back and try to rebuild their old habits from scratch. More often than not, a person with too much time finds new ways to spend it and loses their desire to go back to rigorous training. There’s also the psychosocial aspect, that a person feels relieved to continue their training and be around their comrades. When a person leaves for a long time, you also have to consider the fact that the group will grow together without that person, sometimes making it difficult to accept them back into the group. Also, training reinforces the supporting tissues that take the lion’s share of the work and decreases compensatory patterning. In short, it helps to prevent bad habits that form when the body tries too hard to avoid putting pressure on injured limbs and return the athlete to normalcy and regular training more quickly, or teaches the person to deal with a newly weakened structure.
Mostly, training with an injury means you’re preventing rot. This goes with the new paradigm that every structure in the body is use it or lose it. The body is in a constant state of adapting to the habits and loads that the person puts on it. Start eating McDonald’s every day and stop working out, and the body’s metabolic rate will plummet as it starts to hoard fat and stop feeding muscle; after all, that’s what you’re telling it to do by your actions. If you aren’t stimulating your muscles at least twice a week, then they atrophy and reduce its level to whatever your new activities are.
The biggest thing you want is intensity. Get the body working hard and you will see dramatic improvement in healing time, confidence, and metabolism, as compared to a person who is idle and nursing an injury. You may need a new regimen and absolutely one that avoids re-injury, but you don’t want to kick someone out and let them feel sorry for themselves.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a talk for being stupid with your injury. You should be gritting your teeth through a certain level of pain, but it should be the pain of intensity and not the pain of re-injury. You can ignore calls to stop training and be completely idle, but you should be taking all the other advice of your health care professionals. If the doctor says you need ice and compression, then do it. At the very least, you can always go to the exercise bike, elliptical machine, or a swimming pool.