Getting injured is one of the most common problems that athletes face over the course of a season. Athletes must often ignore small and large injuries and continue playing to reach their goals and win the game. In many cases, this can make injuries worse, and they will end up spending less time on the field. Imagine training hard, investing a ton of time and effort, then having your body shut down on you. This can lead to a deep feeling of disappointment, anger and resentment. While it is easy to see the physical damage that has occurred as a result of the injury, it is not always easy to see the psychological damage.
Being an athlete can help boost self-esteem and satisfaction levels while learning new skills and having a great time. Many athletes use sports as a way to deal with all of their daily stress. For example, someone who cycles can get on their bike, speed down the road and use this as an outlet for all of the stress. Being an athlete is how many spend all of their time, and they tend to hang around like-minded people. This is an essential part of how they see themselves and how they are perceived by others. Even so, an injury can change everything and give the athlete a serious psychological hit.
Losing their identity is a universal problem that athletes have to deal with. Now that they are not on the field with their friends, they are plagued with boredom and feeling jealous toward others that are still allowed to play. There has been much research conducted, and it concluded that it is common for injured athletes to experience one or more of the following: feelings of isolation, fear of being injured again and anxiety. Anger, depression, and frustration are emotions that are universally felt by nearly all of the research subjects. When you are an athlete, the way that you handle injuries will dictate how difficult your road to healing will be.
As an athlete, how can I handle my injuries in a way that will reduce my psychological issues?
You can follow a process that is known by the acronym “R-E-C-O-V-E-R.”
- REST – Take a break and reduce your physical activity. Follow doctors order and focus on regaining your fuel. While you may become anxious and you want the healing process to speed up, you have to take a time out and allow nature to take its course. Sometimes you can heal faster when you take your time.
- EVALUATE – Speak with experts about your situation. Make sure that you voice your concerns and attend rehab as directed. You should have regular contact with all of the experts and make sure not to deviate from any plans they create for you.
- CONNECT – Connect with other people who are inside and outside of the sports world. Research shows that having social support is an integral part of the rehab phase. This refers to staying in contact with all of your fellow athletes, but keep in mind that some of them will not be as supportive as you like since they may be focused on training; That is why non-sport contacts are important during this time as well. Community ties and great social support can help tremendously when it comes to regaining your mental and physical health.
- OPPORTUNITY – Take the time to learn new skills and sharpen any weak areas. This is the perfect time to focus on sharpening the way that you mentally play the game. Goal setting, visualization, and focus are a few of the things you can work on at this time. After your recovery, your mind will be just as strong as your physical body.
- VISUALIZE – Visualize your body getting better, and make sure to be realistic. This is important for injured athletes since it does not require you to do any physical activity, but it can help boost your confidence. Research has shown that imagining things are getting better for you can help promote the healing process and assist with pain management.
- ELIMINATE FEAR – Eliminate any fears you have, trust you body and create recovery goals that are not too rigid. Being hurt again is a common fear experienced by injured athletes. This can place them in a very vulnerable position. Instead of allowing these feelings to take over, work on improving your concentration and focus. Think about what you WOULD LIKE to occur, NOT on what you are afraid of. Setting goals can help tremendously when it comes to recovery. This is a technique that can assist with improving overall performance.
- RETURN TO PLAY – Get back on the field, focus on getting mentally ready and improving more each day. You have exercised a great deal of patience by this time, followed all of the recovery steps and worked on becoming psychologically ready. Now it is time for you to get back out there and play to the best of your ability.