Sports has been your passion since before you can remember. You’ve trained like a beast to become the best at what you do and your competitors fear you. This drives you – it’s who you are. So, what happens when the unthinkable happens and you’re forced to stop playing for a while?
It didn’t even hurt that much when it happened but, after a day or two, the pain is unbearable. So, you head on over to the doctor who confirms your worst nightmare, a ligament tear in need of surgery.
The initial treatment is straightforward: surgery to repair the tear and then physiotherapy for the next few months. Seems simple enough, right?
Unfortunately, the psychological impact of these injuries is often downplayed, but they pose a major mental threat. You have gone from a lean, mean sporting machine to a person relying on others to complete basic day-to-day tasks. In the blink of an eye, all has changed.
Addressing the mental impact of injuries
Coaches and family members of injured athletes need to be sensitive to the issues that come with the injury. By understanding the strain being placed on the player, you can navigate any additional stressors and prevent further mental anguish.
It’s important to remember that the athlete has built their entire life around their sport. It is who they are and they’re often lost without this sense of identity. Another aspect to consider is the self-esteem that comes with being good at what you do. This recognition is a driver of success and acts as a great motivator. This all becomes a part of who they are and how they cope with various things.
So how do you cope when it’s all gone? What do you do when your body betrays you?
Top tips for making your mental comeback
- Don’t hide your emotions. Let yourself be sad if you are feeling sad. Hiding your feelings and emotions will do more harm than good.
- It is what it is. Unfortunately, you are injured and there’s no use in focusing on what could’ve been. This is your new reality.
- As you start to make your recovery, set realistic goals for yourself to stay motivated and track your progress.
- Try to stay positive, as challenging as it may be. Your attitude plays a big part in your recovery and can be the difference between a speedy and a slow recovery.
- Listen to your doctors and work as hard as you possibly can – without overexerting yourself, of course! Don’t try to cheat the process. Take the time needed to make a full recovery.
- Try to keep up with your training schedule wherever possible. Keep in touch what your team is doing and try to prepare for your official return mentally.
- Let your team support you. It’s more vital than ever to maintain the connection with your team as well as the sport.
- Reflect on the things which you have learned throughout your sporting career and find ways to incorporate it into a life where you cannot practice or compete as you did before.
- Speak to someone if your feeling overwhelmed by it all. A professional may be able to provide additional insight and expertise.
- Be patient throughout the process. Give yourself the time needed to make a recovery without rushing and pushing yourself when you’re not ready to do so.
It’s not an easy task and it’s a mind game. When it comes to making a full recovery, you need to focus on what’s going through your mind and use your mindset to drive your recovery.
A sports psychologist is an essential part of an injured athlete’s recovery. If you would like to discover additional information about what it takes to become a sports psychologist, please follow this link.