GOAL: To get back on the tennis court competitively, despite my serious injury.
WHY I DID IT: In early 2009, I injured my rib while preparing for Wimbledon. After a four-week hiatus the pain had still not subsided, and I was deemed unable to return to the court. Even after an additional six weeks of rest and recovery, the pain remained so severe I feared the injury would be the demise of my tennis career and my dream of winning a major tournament. I was absolutely devastated.
I couldn't imagine my life without tennis. Tennis had given my husband (who is also my coach.) and me so many amazing opportunities, and I felt there were so many more lingering on the horizon. I couldn't give it up — not just yet.
I'd catch myself getting lost in a daydream, reflecting back on the countless hours spent training, the intense focus and determination of practice, and all the blood, sweat and tears that come with professional sports. I longed to be back on the court and winning tournaments again. I knew there was only one thing to fill this void in my soul, so in mid-2009, I began the constant uphill battle to recovery.
HOW I DID IT: Along the tumultuous path of false hopes, endless tests and failed treatments, I found my way to Lisa Chase of Back 2 Normal Physical Therapy in St. Petersburg. Chase's progressive diagnostic strategies and innovative treatments were not only effective but rejuvenating. In tandem with her colleague, Dr. Nishin Tambay, Chase recommended a customized blend of specialized treatment and rehabilitation, which included manual therapy, a nutrition plan, sports specific exercise, acupuncture, laser therapy and even a new therapy called the MELT Method.
HURDLES: Having patience — not something that comes naturally for me — was definitely a hurdle throughout the healing process. Eager to pick up my career where I left off, I was counting down the days until I could get back on the court! Once I was able to return to training, moderation became a bit of a hurdle for me as well. Although I was mentally ready to resume the intense practice regimen of my pre-injury days, I wasn't physically ready.
GOING THE DISTANCE: Luckily, Chase and Tambay understood my urgency to get back to normal and created a rehab/treatment plan to make that happen as quickly and a safely as possible. As a professional athlete, it can be difficult to see eye-to-eye with medical professionals, but Chase's past experience with the WTA Tour (Women's Tennis Association) really helped keep us on the same page. I'd recommend her and her team to any athlete, not just tennis players.
BEST ADVICE: Do the research and shop around. Not all physical therapists are the same. Each one has his or her own signature style and expertise, so it's important to find one you are comfortable with and offers treatments and solutions specific to your situation.