If there’s one thing that athletes fear, it’s getting injured and being sidelined for a significant amount of time. To many serious athletes, sports and their participation in it are everything. It’s what they’ve grown up doing and what they’ve dedicated most of their lives to. Many athletes find it difficult to go a few days without training, let alone months (or even years) if sidelined with a serious injury.
More often than not, being seriously injured means a significant amount of time off the field. Because of this, it’s common for many injured athletes to become depressed or lose motivation when this happens. Without proper support from the athlete’s family and team (i.e. sports and medical), recovering from any serious injury could be more difficult and longer than it has to be. Even worse, without the proper support and guidance, an athlete may have lingering issues long after having recovered from the injury.
To overcome this depression and loss of motivation, it’s best to understand what an athlete goes through when he/she gets sidelined with a serious injury. This goes beyond just physical recovery. In most cases, physically recovering from an injury is the easy part. The more difficult part (and the part that needs the most support and attention) is its mental aspect.
Any injury, especially serious ones, takes more than just a physical toll on an athlete. More significantly, injuries take mental, psychological, and emotional tolls on them. Often, these non-physical tolls and stresses present larger obstacles than the physical ones.
There are several psychological and emotional issues that injured athletes have to overcome during rehabilitation. Every athlete is different and each will have their own problems to overcome. The following, however, are some common issues usually faced by athletes going through a serious injury:
Loss of identity – To many athletes, playing their sport is a big part (if not the biggest part) of who they are. Many define their lives through playing their sport and many identify themselves through it. When they are suddenly sidelined and unable to play or train because of an injury, they can lose their sense of identity and become depressed in not being able to do something that helps define who they are.
Sense of isolation – When athletes are sidelined for a long period of time, they can feel isolated or alienated from the team. Unable to participate in regular training, they can feel like they’re getting left behind not only by their team, but also by fellow competitors and even the sport itself.
Self-doubt and loss of confidence – Injuries can take a significant toll on an athlete’s self-confidence and self-belief. During time off, it’s easy for athletes to doubt their abilities and second-guess themselves. This fear and doubt can significantly prolong their rehabilitation period or even affect their performance once they’ve returned to play.
No matter what issues an athlete faces when injured, it’s important to stay positive and develop a strategy for coping with it. It’s also especially important for an athlete’s family and team to provide proper support throughout rehabilitation and recovery. With the right support and guidance, an injured athlete can increase the chances of a successful recovery and even come back stronger and better than before.
If you recently suffered a serious injury or are currently recovering from one, here are some tips to help you overcome these mental issues and keep you motivated:
– Accept your situation and move forward. Genuinely accepting what happened and acknowledging your situation will greatly improve your mindset for rehabilitation and recovery. If you need time to be sad and grieve, then do so (within reason of course). By accepting the reality of your situation, you’ll be able to focus on what you can do instead of what could/should/would have been.
– Seek support from your family and team. Don’t be afraid to ask your family and team for any support and understanding that you need. No athlete can do it on his/her own. Getting back from an injury stronger and better than before should be a collective effort by the athlete, family, and team.
– Participate with the team as much as you can. Find ways to stay connected with the team and participate in their activities. Even if you can’t fully train with them, you’ll usually be able to find ways to help out and still be part of the team’s goals.
– Set small, realistic goals throughout recovery. Breaking down recovery milestones into small, realistic goals will help keep you motivated as you heal up. It will also give you a clear and effective record of your overall progress. Focusing on progressing on your recovery, no matter how small, will help keep you motivated.
– Don’t take shortcuts, put the work in. Follow the plan that you, your family, and your sports and medical team have agreed on for your recovery. Always keep your long-term health and condition in mind. Avoid shortcuts and quick fixes that may work on the short-term but ultimately worsen things for you down the line.
And most importantly, don’t be afraid to seek any professional help if necessary. The more proactive you are with your recovery, the sooner you’ll be able to get back to playing.
“Mind over matter?” – Psychological factors in athletic injuries