I’m often asked: “How do pro athletes heal so fast following a major surgery?”

My answer is two-fold: “They lock into a positive attitude before they go under the knife and, more importantly, they take an active approach to jump-start their recovery immediately after surgery.”

Successful elite athletes never take a passive approach following any surgery.  An active game plan going into and coming out of a surgery is a secret trick used by professional medical staffs.

On the eve of my 7:30 AM hernia surgery tomorrow, I already started my recovery game plan exactly like I did for the Jacksonville Jaguars players when I was their Head Athletic Trainer and Physical Therapist.  If this checklist proved to be a successful for my players during my 26 years in the NFL, I’d be a fool not to utilize this powerful recovery tool for myself!

Let me share with you my Checklist for Surgery: Rehabbing Like a Pro Athlete.

  1. Pre-Surgery Treatment – Consistent flexibility and massage of every muscle impacted by the upcoming surgery.  This provides relaxed, blood-filled and healthy tissue for the surgeon to work his/her surgery magic.
  2. Medical Team On-Call – Surgeon, primary care doctor, physical therapist, massage therapist and the all-important spouse are all on the same page AND available 24/7 if a problem or question arises.
  3. Written Rehab Protocol – Not assumed, guessed upon or TBD’ed….the rehab game plan, aka “the protocol”, is in writing and in the hands of everyone on the medical team.  No aspect of that rehab protocol will be changed without the direct approval of the surgeon, period.
  4. Ice Pack, Cups and Tanks – Every form of ice therapy is in place and easily accessible for the athlete before they arrive home after the surgery. Trust me; hammer an ice block at 2 AM to make an ice bag is not a fun option for a post-operative athlete.
  5. Mind Management – The mind of an inactive athlete in pain is not pretty. Having mental projects to solve, books to read, game plans to write,…etc. are all beneficial tools to help to stimulate an athlete’s brain during the long boring days immediately following a surgery.
  6. Written Physical Goals – Writing out the goals for the athlete before the surgery provides great focus and motivation for an athlete in pain who yearns for physical challenges.
  7. Fuel the Machine – Starting a week before the surgery, hydrating aggressively with good ol’ water while eating a balanced diet along with extra antioxidants will optimize your body’s ability to heal quickly.

This checklist proved to be a valuable tool for hundreds of professional athletes I’ve rehabilitated to help them “win today” as they rebuild their status as an elite athlete ASAP.  I know it will help me starting tomorrow.

I’m ready.  Let the healing begin!