Sports injuries can be devastated for any athlete. Hopes and dreams to achieve big goals can disappear in just a second. Immediately after the injury, some athletes may fall in a negative thinking spiral that affects not only any hope to coming back, but also a psychological damage that further delays the healing process.
It is right after injury takes place that immediate psychological support can provide a huge favorable outcome. Research has found that using of a variety of psychological strategies make a significant impact in the return to competition. When comparing athletes that used goal setting, imagery and holistic approaches, healing was found to be faster than those who did not practiced any mental strategy. Also, breathing relaxation and mindfulness approaches have shown to provide important reduction in stress.
It is imperative to educate athletes of the importance to keep a steady and committed recovery process. Unfortunately, too many athletes tend to downplay medical advice only to notice that healing is taking longer than expected.
Athletes need to be informed of the magnitude of the injury as well as being kept motivated that rehabilitation will be set up to address the recovery phase.
Athletes often worry that they may not be able to perform to their fullest potential after healing is complete. This level of anxiety may actually play a counterproductive role as hormonal reactions interfere with the organic healing process. Furthermore, it is important that the injured athlete receives support from the medical and sport staff as he/she already feels isolated from other athletes. The road to full recovery is often tedious and tough, but having coping strategies will significantly help the recovery process.
To help the injured athlete:
1- Seek immediate psychological support that will guide the athlete to a mental road map that promotes recovery.
2 – Promote medical and sport staff involvement with the injured athlete.
3 – Set goals, be patient, realistic, and always optimistic.