Alex’s courage in talking about the loneliness of her head injury

If you have met Alex Danson MBE (gold medallist with the GB Hockey squad and since then the Captain of the England and GB Hockey teams), you will know her massive heart, her infectious smile and her complete passion for sport and team sport – and hockey especially.

It is so hard to see someone like Alex literally knocked out by the impact of concussion. But her courage in being searingly honest about how hard it is will be a lifeline to others who are injured. I also really hope that it will also be a lifeline to her with the massive outpouring of support for her on social media yesterday, and hopefully going forward in the coming weeks and months.

The most telling parts for me in her interview with The Times yesterday were these lines:

“One of the hardest parts in all of this, aside from the physical trauma, has been losing my identity,” she wrote. “Going from leading my country, aspiring to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics to just trying to get through a day.

“Head injuries are serious, debilitating and lonely. When I have days when I feel well enough I will document some of my recovery. I’ve not been well enough to up to now and I’ve not been sure whether it’s something I wanted to do.”

They capture so brilliantly the complete stop that comes with an accident and injury, and the new mental framework that you have to build. And Alex’s commitment to make meaning out of this brutal, difficult and unfair injury by documenting her learnings and recovery to help others is totally inspirational.

Alex’s post on her Twitter feed @AlexDanson15 under the comment “It’s been a long 6 months….I’m thankful to say that I am on the road to recovery #mildtraumaticbraininjury”

Concussion is a very serious injury and many sports have now linked together to share the best knowledge. I am not an expert, but I would say that the Birmingham Sports Clinic is open to professional and amateur athletes over 16 years old, from all geographic areas. Instructions and how to get referred can be found here:

Very best of luck for your recovery Alex. We are all rooting for you.

Jo Pavey’s ‘This Mum Runs’

One of the things about being injured and unable to move very much (without a lot of pain) is that I have read some great books. I wanted to share a few things that I took from reading Jo Pavey’s book that I think are really relevant for an injured athlete – but do buy the book, as it is a wonderful, human and inspiring read.

I remember really clearly the feeling of being in the crowd with my husband and two close friends and all screaming ourselves hoarse at Hampden Park stadium when Jo Pavey took bronze in the 2014 Commonwealth Games 5,000m and stopped the Kenyans taking a clean sweep of the medals. The race was incredibly exciting and inspiring – as this race report summarises, but how Jo had come back to win this medal (and a Gold medal at the European Championships 2 weeks later) is even more inspiring.

Here are the top three things that I took away for injured athletes specifically:

  1. Having been British Champion in her late teens, Jo had six years in her 20’s of not being able to train and compete. She hung in through this – did not let it get her down and also qualified as a physiotherapist (which must have helped her to understand how to rehabilitate her injuries). Six years! And yet she came back to win major medals in her 40’s – to me that shows such true grit, resilience and mental strength.
  2. With her coach (and husband), Jo managed her annual, training block, weekly and daily training schedule and sessions based on what was possible and what her body responded best to. The fact that she could turn out amazing track performances in spikes, having done almost all of the training on much softer and more forgiving surfaces and in trainers says that peak performances are still possible when we do the right things for our bodies.
  3. After her stress fractures Jo threw away her orthotic supports in her shoes and concentrated on strength training to address the functional muscle, joint and bone issues.

I don’t under-estimate the incredible dedication and hard-work that lies behind the achievements. But if we could all soak up a little of the balance with which Jo has managed her way through the lows and the highs, this could help any injured athlete move forward.

Enjoy the book. It is great.