Throughout my recovery of my knee injury, I’ve been seeing sports doctors, physical therapists, chiropractors. You name it, I’ve been there. I have been receiving numerous emails and texts from friends and family for ideas, stretches, shoe inserts and more to help with my problem. But now, after 5 weeks of recovery, and still having the same aches and pains – my spirits are down. I began googling about sports injuries and ended up finding all sorts of information on the psychological affects of injuries on athletes and ways to cope. This was not what I was originally searching for, but I decided to check it out. Most of it is common sense, but sometimes you need to hear those things that you already know deep down.
Whatever the sport is that you love, you know that one of the worst things that could possibly happen to you is to become injured during the season. After all the training, practices, etc., that sport becomes your life. And when you can’t play, you suddenly feel lost. This adverse psychological effect on the athlete happens for 3 main reasons: our sport is our sense of identity, our major source of self-esteem, and/or a constructive way for us to cope with our stress. And don’t forget: exercise is also a way for us to indulge in all those sweets, guilt free. :)
An athletes’ self esteem can often take a serious hit when they are injured. Consequently, they are forced to depend on other people for help and support. Most athletes have a strong sense of independence. Now, however, they have to learn how to be dependant on doctors, trainers, physical therapists, and everyone else around them. Thoughts run through our heads… fear of missing training, losing fitness (my biggest fear), and missing important races or games. All this brings a lot of stress to an athlete, and how do athletes deal with stress? They work out! It’s an endless, repetitive, frustrating cycle.
What to do? First, accept responsibility. We’re not accepting the injury is our fault – but we’re accepting that we have an injury, and you’re the only one that can determine your outcome. Taking responsibility for your recovery rather than dwelling on the past. Keep a positive attitude! Negativity truly slows down the healing process, and is never good. Take an active part in your healing. Don’t cut corners, and make it to every rehab, listen to doctors no matter what they tell you to do or not to do, and be smart about when you are ready to get back out there again.
Don’t stop practicing and working out! Depending upon the type of injury you have, you may be able to modify your training or add alternative forms of training to maintain cardiovascular conditioning and strength. If you can’t run, you can cycle or swim. Work on strength training and flexibility. Use goal setting. Start by thinking of your ultimate dream goal and then make a list of the things that you need to do that get you there. Determining realistic short term goals and strategies to accomplish them will help you feel more confident, in more control, and assist you in complying with the treatment prescribed by your doctors and/or trainers.
Encouragement is the one thing that I have found most helpful during this process. Not just the encouragement I have received from others, it’s the decision I made to encourage others. I have been on facebook seeking out my fellow athletes and giving them words of encouragement throughout their training. Not being able to run in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon was very difficult for me. It is a race that’s very close to my heart. So a friend and I decided to instead dress up as Mario and Luigi and give out “free hugs” during the race! This was an effort to help runners with that extra push near the end. Encouraging others even when they feel they aren’t doing well can make them want to work harder, do better, and make a huge effort to finish what they started. Words of encouragement are like energy pills that can give us the strength to overcome the obstacles that lay between us and our objective. Its the light in the tunnel that gives us hope, knowing that there’s someone who believes we can make it. During a marathon, especially, the run can make us physically and emotionally drained. But with a few inspiring words, we can be revitalized!
That’s a good life lesson we have heard many times, but for some reason, we often have a tendency to ignore. Surround yourself with positive encouraging people who lift you up.
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