If you are a fan of college basketball, you probably know the accomplishments of Coach Mike Krzyzewski, who has led Duke University’s men’s basketball program for 35 years, including 4 national championships. What you might not know is that Coach K struggled with chronic back pain that culminated in a personal crisis twenty years ago, and a recent news article by Barry Jones for the News & Observer tells the story.
Coach K had back surgery for a ruptured disk in October of 1994 and was so eager to return to work that he didn’t take the necessary time to recover and he returned to work too soon. As his wife, Mickie, recounted, “Getting well was worse for him than being sick because he felt he had deserted his men.” She even had to give him an ultimatum: skip practice and see the doctor or don’t come home. In fact, his struggle got so bad that he decided to resign. Luckily, the athletic director convinced Coach K to take a leave of absence instead. “One of the things we’ve learned is the emotional toll that chronic pain takes. It just completely changes everything,” said Mickie.
Chronic pain can be devastating, physically and emotionally, and if it can take down Mike Krzyzewski and his family, imagine what it can do to the average working person. Employers, physicians and the injured employee should follow his eventual lead: listen to your body and get proper rest; don’t return to work sooner than you should; and don’t try to be superman.