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The Women's Sports Alliance


Yasmin Liverpool Blog: ‘Being injured doesn’t mean you’re weak. Realising that makes you stronger'

Yasmin Liverpool is a 24-year-old 400m runner who was raised in the Netherlands, but moved back to the country of her parent’s birth when she was 18. She competed at the British Athletics Tokyo 2020 Olympic trials and aims to race for England at the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, which take place close to her training base in the Midlands.

This year (2021) I made the decision to end my season early because of a chronic injury problem. Even using the word 'injury' would have been a challenge just a few months ago though because I refused to accept what my body was telling me.

Being a part of the elite sports community you are consistently mixing with world class performers, which has many benefits, but it also makes it hard to show what you might think could be seen as a weakness. I remember how I initially refused to wear KT tape because I didn't want my competitors to see me as 'weak' and I know I'm not alone in hiding or downplaying an injury because I almost felt a kind of shame admitting I had a problem.

Yes there've been improvements and there is more support for competitors than before, but there's still elements of that 'old-school' culture where you're encouraged to 'just get on with it' and train or race through the pain. At times it can be toxic.

My injury had been 'niggling' away at me for a few years. I say 'niggling' but really it has been more than a minor issue and at times I've had to limp home after training. I brushed it off, convincing myself that as there wasn't a major muscle tear or broken bone I'd be fine. I guess I just hoped it would one day somehow magically disappear.

Originally it was diagnosed as a form of Posterior Tibial Tendonitis, but in practical terms you could say it feels a lot like shin splints and the pain can be excruciating when running. This season it progressed and started to affect my calves, which would tighten up and become very sore, at times preventing me from running at all.

2021 is the first time it has escalated to the point where I've needed to miss training and ultimately races. Devastating for an athlete at any point, but particularly in an Olympic year!

Leading into the Tokyo trials in June I was forced to miss two weeks of training and pull out of my first Continental Gold Tour meeting – a series just below the Diamond League, which was a big deal to me.

My body was feeling better after this break, but having stepped up training just before the trials, I was again feeling pain and tightness in my calves the evening before the event.

I'd been included in British Athletics' 'long list' for the Olympics, which meant I knew all the official plans between then and the Games. When selection would be confirmed, when I'd collect kit, travel to Japan etc... It was the Olympics, I had to 'suck it up', convince myself I was invincible and hopefully I'd be fine, but the pain wasn't going away.

I didn't perform how I hoped. I didn't make the Team GB squad.

I was devasted and watching it all play out on social media over the coming weeks as people I knew well posted pictures and videos from kitting out was really difficult. I tried to push through at the European U23 Championships a few weeks later, but neither my body nor mind were in the right place.

After consulting with physiotherapists and my coach, I decided to end my season there.

I must admit that it was only when I ended my season that I understood the depth of the injury problem. For the first week after I stopped, I still felt the pain.

I wasn't sure how I would feel watching the Olympics, because just a month or so before I really thought I had a chance of being there, but I really got behind the team and couldn't help but be inspired by the performances.

It helped motivate me when I began my rehabilitation, but discovering I was unable to do certain exercises that most athletes would find easy was really difficult. The process is more challenging than expected and realising the road back to running pain-free will take longer than I thought has been tough reality check.

I still haven't done any running since ending my season, but I have learnt so much in that time.

If you want to perform at the very highest level, you need to run fast consistently and to achieve that you must be strong and robust. That means not ignoring any warning signs your body sends you like pain or tightness. You need to take care of yourself.

When I first started having pain, I should have taken it more seriously. Instead, I ignored it. This kind of short-term thinking and denial, where all you can think about is how to hold yourself together until the next training session or race, is not sustainable – not to mention mentally draining!

I have now resolved to make sure that I sort out any pains or weaknesses that arise before they escalate. I know it's important to talk to the people around me who I trust. I no longer see these struggles as 'weakness' either – they're simply part of my story.

And that is a journey which I hope will include the Europeans, Commonwealth Games and potentially the World Championships in 2022, when I return to the track.

I decided to share this because I think that if we all talk about injury more openly, we won't feel that shame or 'live in denial' about it as much. I hope that people reading this, who have a similar experience, remember to listen to their body, notice the warning signs and deal with it positively for the good of their career.


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