Breaking Down the Psychology of Injury Recovery for Athletes
Everyone knows that injuries are a part of sports, but did you know that the mental aspects of injury recovery are often the most difficult part of the rehabilitation process? Sport psychologists have learned that the emotional duress athletes experience during rehabilitation can often last days, weeks, and even months longer than the pain associated with an athletic injury — yet few coaches and parents are ware of this (Sport Success 360).
So why are athletes often bogged down by the mental aspects of an injury, even after the injury has healed (physically)?
- Injuries are often experienced as an “unknown” for athletes, meaning they don’t fully understand the complexities of the injury and the related course of treatment needed to get back to healthy. Since stress is inversely related to personal control, many athletes feel a lot of stress as they simultaneously experience a loss of control over healing the injury.
- Confidence is king when it comes to sports, but confidence often decreases when athletes test their rehabbed injury for the first time coming back. It’s not uncommon for athletes to worry about what might happen if they re-agitate the injury, and as a result some athletes actually play tentatively as a means to protect themselves from this occurring.
- The potential loss of a starting position is another worry for injured athletes. Unlike the old days where the unwritten rule was that an injured athlete would never lose his starting spot, increasingly more coaches today do not ascribe to that philosophy, and some will even bump an injured athlete down on the depth chart.
- The support system for an injured athlete often dwindles. Unlike the athletes who practice and travel together, injured athletes often miss out on those experiences while working out in the training room. Social support is a key variable for injury rehabilitation, but many athletes lose their support system during the course of an injury.
Keeping athletes mentally tough is key, but the mental aspects of injury recovery often go overlooked. It is for this reason that coaches and parents tune in to help injured athletes so that they can regain control over the rehabilitation process, maintain a high level of confidence, and use their teammates as support during difficult times.
For more information on the psychology of injury recovery please visit Advanced Human Performance Systems
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Dr. Chris Stankovich is a Professional Athletic Counselor and Sport Performance Scientist and studies the psychosocial variables impacting human performance and success. He is the author of 5 books and has had his work featured in numerous national media outlets, including USA Today and ABC World News. Dr. Stankovich is known as "The Sports Doc" for his regular television feature on Ohio News Network and NBC 4 Columbus (OH). For more information on peak performance products, speaking engagements, training seminars, and free education downloads, please visit http://www.drstankovich.com.