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ANDY MURRAY – RESURFACING – how to cope and overcome mental and physical challenges of severe injury

This documentary is about Andy Murray’s journey fighting against injury from 2017 to 2019. This is a must watch movie for on going injured athletes, or sports trainers and therapists who work with injured athletes. For the first time, you will have an intimate look into a long and struggling journey to recovery of an elite athlete, with many footages of Andy himself sharing about his day to day feeling. It is extremely rare to have top athletes open up about their fears of the uncertainty as such.

The movie starts with Andy sharing about his thought on the day of his injury to deal with his Labral tear on Jan 2018. That was right after he became the number 1 in the world and then he could not walk, or put his sock on. At this point he was still very positive about the result post operation. The movie shows the process of recovery with the work done in the gym for Andy from his physiotherapists and strength and conditioning coach. Andy seemed recovering well physically although he still suffered from pain. He would be sore very quickly with more intense training. The improvement quickly becomes too small to inspire Andy for the work ahead. That was when he looked for peer’s opinion who had the same injury like Lleyton Hewitt. From a trainer’s point of view, the client like Andy would surely be looking for opinions of his mates, and these opinions can affect the psychology of injured athletes. Other athletes seemed to make it back after about 3 months’ time, while Andy’s issue seemed to drag on. On top of this, there was pressure from the press, sponsors and corporate’s commitment which Andy could not fulfil. You can see Andy’s frustration working toward an unclear goal of when he could recover, while media created drama on whether he could play the Wimbledon or not. Andy then talked about how he used the media criticism as fire to motivate him training. Djokovic, Nadal and Federer also commented on how Andy’s mentality grew more mature over the years.

overcome hip injury, tennis injury

After 10 months of hard rehab without able to remove the pain, Andy decided to have cortisone shots to kill the pain, and nerve ablation technique (destroy of nerves). From here, we can see how a dedicated athlete would behave post-surgery by following all the instructions and exercises precisely. It is also interesting to see how physiotherapist and fitness coach can light up the training session mood by joining in the exercises and have fun with athletes.

If you are watching the movie looking for an answer of why Andy Murray is one of the best in the world, you will hear his coaches talked about how much he pays attention to all the details, and his will power to push himself beyond the pain threshold “cause I can keep going” as well as his extreme competitiveness. He is also hungry for statistic and analysis of the game.

Andy got back to tennis 11 months after the last match and a lot of cortisone injections in his joint. There were some nervous and apprehensive feeling in him knowing that the grass court season is the most important part of the year for British players. It turned out the biggest come back was a disappointment with more pain. So, whether it was the right call to come back or was it too soon because Andy ended up withdrawing from playing Wimbledon just one day before the event.

mentality of injured athletes

After this junction, Andy faced his own fear of what life would be without tennis and the daily structure. Most athletes with severe injuries knew and faced this thought at one point or another. This is part of the identity lost that injured athletes had to deal with, because they have practiced sports their whole life.

As the journey goes, Andy took a second round of nerve ablation to kill off the pain and work on his rehab. He seemed to feel pretty good after this round of treatment and even got back his sprinting speed, which made everyone on his team felt positive. They decided to go to the US Open for another come back. After 3 successful matches of 3 hours each, Andy’s body showed signs of not coping well with pain again. He cried with his tower covering his face for 1.5 minutes straight after the third match. He admitted that after this match, his body and mind did not want to go through the pain and struggle anymore. After 16 months of struggling with the hip injury with lots of up and down, he was hoping the last treatment could be his chance to come back, but it did not. His heart wanted to go on, but his mind and body could not do the work anymore.

tennis player mental toughness

The one thing that I feel missing the most out of Andy’s story was how little info it showed about Andy’s work with Rich Hampson, his sport psychologist. There were only two scenes with one when Rich asked Andy about his biggest regrets. I would have liked to learn more about the psychologist’s work with Andy to cope through that whole painful period because it must be very challenging keeping Andy’s spirit up despite all the knock back.

In Oct 2018, Andy decided to start working with Bill Knowles in an attempt to shake up his rehabilitation program. This would be very interesting for any fitness coach that works with injured athletes because Bill’s method is very unorthodox and copy a child-play kind of mindset, which is very fun and different. Bill defines himself as a reconditioning specialist, incorporate kayaking, gymnast, break dance, cartwheel… in his work. Andy’s wife talked about how different trainers bring a glimpse of hope with a new method, and how many specialist Andy saw over the years. This is also a good learning point, as many athletes came to see you as a fitness coach would probably had seen others and get hope then disappointed before.

As the Australian Open 2019 got closer, Andy admitted that he felt a sense of hopeless with no end point in mind in terms of recovery. In a way, Andy was hoping someone on his team would advise him to quit instead of keep on going. He knew his decision of quitting would affect a lot of people around him so he always pushed hard to make sure everyone understood that he tried everything. Being a very coachable athlete, Andy followed through the recovery process exactly as he was asked to do, and he felt he deserved to receive better result.

Andy revealed about his past and why tennis meant so much more to him rather than just a sport. He went through the Dunblane massacre (where a gunman - that Andy’s family knew and had some connections- killed 16 kids and 1 adult in his school). A year after that, his parents also divorced. Tennis became an escape for the young Andy to deal with the anxiety that came from those events.

The day before the Australian Open 2019, Andy was torn about whether to make any announcement about his foreseeable retirement from tennis. His mind constantly jumped between anxious and denial about how serious his hip issue really was. Watching him making a press conference about his upcoming retirement was a painful thing for anyone. Yet he went on and performed a gutsy fight against Roberto Agut only to lose on the 5th set during the AO.

mental strength to overcome hip injury

For champions like Andy, they are not willing to give up their fate. After the goodbye in Australian Open, Andy searched for a better solution and he found a second surgery which would give him a metal hip. He went through yet again the turmoil of wondering if he made the right decision for another operation. At the end of Jan 2019, Andy went through the surgery, followed by yet another round of rehab with his team of specialists. The surgeon predicted that if Andy came back to play single tennis he would have a 15% chance of destroying his hip within seven years. At this part of his career, Andy thought he might not want to go through all the pain and suffering again just to get into the top ten in the world. Three months after the operation, Andy finally did not feel pain again post practice. He finally gained back some speed on his sprinting ability.

The film ended with Andy finally got back on court and won a trophy for playing as a double. It was the start for yet another comeback to become a single tennis player again. He also found peace with himself that he rather just plays for himself and enjoy a pain-free feeling, rather than chasing after tittles that other expected him to do.

If you are a motivated athlete, I highly recommend watching this film. I did not truly understand when people like Nadal and Andy said they could not work before certain tournament. Watching this film open my eyes about the dedication it takes to be the number one in the world and win Grand slam titles. There are also a lot of lessons for fitness coaches and psychologists on how to support athletes in pain the best.

I watched this video on Amazon Prime. Feel free to find it there or anywhere else that have it.


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