Getting injured in your sport is common place for active kids, but common sports injuries is also something all parents, coaches and athletes fear. No one wants to be forced to stop playing. How you handle your comeback is extremely important. With the right mental attitude you can either come back ready to play or fearful and tentative.
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Today we have a guest article from Emily Torres, CPFT, CMT, whose practice focuses on sports injury treatment and prevention and sports psychology. Emily gives us her advice on how to get past most common sports injuries.
For the injured athlete, physical factors, such as muscle imbalances, high-speed collisions, overtraining, and physical fatigue, are the primary causes of exercise and sport injuries. However, psychological factors have also been found to play a determining role. Personality factors, stress levels, and certain predisposing attitudes are some of the main psychological issues that parents and coaches need to keep in mind.
I have found it interesting in my practice, that typically the greatest source of stress an injured athlete is not the result of the physical aspects of the injury. Rather, psychological reactions …fear of reinjury, feeling that hopes and dreams were shattered, watching others get to perform and social concerns like, lack of attention, isolation, negative relationships all play a bigger role.
So how can parents and coaches get an injured athlete back on the road to physical and mental recovery?
Recognize that the loss of personal identity is especially significant to athletes who define themselves solely through sport. An athlete who sustains a career- or activity-ending injury may even require special, often long-term, psychological care.
It is usually very traumatic. So it is important that we teach our youth athletes that playing their sport is what they do, but it is NOT who they are.
Negative psychological reactions to being injured like doubt and worry, usually does not stop when an athlete is cleared by their doctor to return to their sport. There are a number of return-to-play concerns, such as overcoming reinjury fears, concerns with being able to reach preinjury performance levels, dealing with differences in pain, and seeing performance improvements.
In the initial injury or illness phase it is important to focus on helping the athlete deal with the emotional upheaval that accompanies the onset of their injury.
A major source of stress at this initial stage is the uncertainty that accompanies the undiagnosed condition and the implications of any diagnosis. Parents, coaches and the medical team should focus on helping the athlete understand the type of injury that they have. During the rehabilitation and recovery stage, the focus should be on helping the athlete sustain motivation and sticking to the rehabilitation protocols.
Goal setting and maintaining a positive attitude, especially during setbacks, are very important in this regard. Last is the return to full activity; even though an athlete is physically cleared for participation, his recovery is not complete until he can return to normal functioning within his sport.
- Personal performance goals can be helpful in decreasing an athlete’s recovery time. Some goal-setting strategies to use with injured athletes and exercisers are setting a date to return to competition; determining the number of times per week to come to the training room for therapy; and deciding the number of range-of-motion, strength, and endurance exercises to do during recovery sessions.
- Lastly, social support is critical for injured athletes, even though an athlete is physically cleared for participation, his recovery is not complete. Once we do something and stop, the muscles take a while to get back to pre injury level. They need to know that their coaches and teammates care, because kids easily get depressed about their slow recovery. They need to feel confident that people will listen to their concerns, without judging them, and to learn how others have recovered from similar injuries.
Emily Torres has had over ten years’ experience in the medical field as a certified nursing assistant and a certified medical massage therapist. Currently, through her work as a personal trainer, she focuses on sports injury prevention and sports psychology consulting in Indiana. She can be reach at firstname.lastname@example.org or find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/revivefitnessconsulting