In every sport, there is a moment of commitment: a physical move that takes preparation, confidence, and skill.
In surfing, it is the drop. You paddle hard, catch the forward momentum of the wave, do your get-up move, and commit to the drop as the nose of the board points down the face of the wave. The athleticism of the paddling and the get-up move are trainable, given practice and time on the water—but the commitment to the drop has to happen within the mind. The mental confidence that you will control the board, get on the rail, and drive down the wave differentiates the successful surfers from the rest.
In windsurfing, it is the jibe. You sail downwind, picking up speed, step forward, and lean into the turn. The more you lean, the more the board tilts on edge, carving an arc on the water. Multiple moves must then happen—controlling the sail to flip to the opposite side, repositioning your body, and leaning back into the new position with smoothness and grace.
In skiing, it is another drop, off the cornice or into the chute. You must push your body forward on the skis into empty white space before you lay the skis over on their edges to grip the snow. This is also a mind game: It is counterintuitive to launch yourself without knowing if the ski edges will hold or the snow will slide.
A similar combination of factors plays a critical role for a patient entering surgery. The idea that your body will be opened up, that something will be done to it, is frightening. Yet to succeed at the highest levels of outcome you have to commit fully.
Almost all orthopaedic surgery cases are meant to repair, regenerate, or replace something that is broken or missing. The actual surgical procedure is only one part of the healing process. Whether we are treating a sports injury, trauma, or arthritis, the entry and exit from the surgery make all the difference.
The entry that works best includes fitness training that optimizes the muscles and bones around the injury, as well as the cardiovascular system that supports it. All athletes get hurt at some point in their career; the great ones use their injury as an excuse to become fitter, faster; and stronger than they were before they got hurt. They focus on optimizing parts of themselves that may have been neglected. They work creatively around the injury or the healing joint, using well-leg bicycling, pool therapies, Pilates, Yoga, and core strengthening. They commit to increasing rather than decreasing their training focus.
The best patients go into surgery with a confidence that flows to the surgical and rehabilitation teams. These patients have done their homework, chosen the best options, and set up the right conditions for post-operative success. They radiate an athlete’s level of optimism. They exit the operating room with their support services set up, their time blocked out for physical therapy, their fitness coach lined up, and their nutrition optimized to help them heal.
That moment of total commitment—dropping with the board, leaning into the turn, launching into space—is accomplished by balancing subtle trepidation with underlying overconfidence. The best athletes and the best patients will themselves to succeed.
Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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