Mentally Overcoming Injuries
Everyone experiences setbacks in their lives, but to athletes, injuries feel like the same response as a person who is facing imminent death (Weinberg & Gould, 2019). Interestingly, stress could be the main reason why they are injured in the first place but also the same reason why they will not get better (Putukian, 2015). When an injury occurs, athletes who have not developed a healthy coping mechanism to deal with failure, may they feel like they failed themselves. However, there could be certain implications to take to get better when dealing with an injury.
According to Stowe (2015), athletes can enhance their well-being through injury by obtaining a strong social support, learning coping skills for setbacks, and applying different strategies coaches implement. Stowe (2015) found that it is essential to match the correct social support type (emotional, informational, or tangible) in accordance with the athletes’ needs as the process of recovery progresses. At the initial stages of injury, emotional support is needed and as the process transits, practitioners in rehabilitation are to provide informational support to the individual. Tangible support is used throughout the process to provide the correct resources for the athlete. During an injury, people recover at different speeds. Weinberg and Gould (2019) suggest to encourage the athlete that things like this are not uncommon and that they are not the only one who might be going through a setback. The best way possible to keep the process moving would be allowing the athlete to express their feelings while reminding them to maintain a positive mindset. Having the correct knowledge about injuries and being understanding through the process is important. Strategies coaches should use for injured athletes are keeping them involved in the team, creating short-term goals, and switching up different rehabilitation exercises (Clement et al., 2013). Injury makes the athlete feel out of their element and not themselves, so the best way to make them feel at home is including them in team activities such as practices, games, and support groups.
Coaches, teammates, and family members are in the best position to support the injured athlete at the time. First and foremost, it is important for coaches to have the desire to obtain the correct knowledge of the psychological and emotional responses athletes go through as this increases the ability to support them. The best way to help athletes deal with their injuries is to identify the correct social support they need. It is also healthy to express to them the skills needed to cope with injuries such as telling them setbacks happen and encourage them to speak with someone close when setbacks do occur (Weinberg & Gould, 2019). At the beginning stages, emotional support is to be enforced as the athlete is more vulnerable and they need to feel understood all while creating a space of trustworthiness for them (Stowe, 2015). In rehabilitation, practitioners are to provide the informational support feedback about their injury and teach them what steps to take to get better. To fulfill the tangible support, coaches should hold a support group of different athletes who surpassed injuries as this will give them feelings of motivation while applying the strategy of involvement in the team. Throughout the process, coaches should be implementing the other strategies of setting short-term goals in rehabilitation and providing a variety of exercises used to keep the athlete motivated.
According to Ivarsson et al. (2017) athletic injuries can severely affect the individual’s overall well-being. The best way to help the athlete survive through the process is making sure certain implications are taken to improve the athlete’s motivation throughout the injury process. Ideas such as identifying and implementing different types of social support, teaching athletes coping skills for setbacks, and enforcing different strategies to make the athlete feel seen as a person still. Athletes want to be able to move through the process smoothly as possible and not fear re-injury. Coaches, practitioners, and family members are the key factors in helping the athlete know what to do once a setback occurs.
Clement, D., Granquist, M. D., & Arvinen-Barrow, M. M. (2013). Psychosocial aspects of athletic injuries as perceived by athletic trainers. Journal of Athletic Training, 48(4), 512–521. https://doi.org/10.4085/1062-6050-48.3.21.
Ivarsson, A., Tranaeus, U., Johnson, U., & Stenling, A. (2017). Negative psychological responses of injury and rehabilitation adherence effects on return to play in competitive athletes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Open Access Journal of Sports Medicine, Volume 8, 27–32. https://doi.org/10.2147/oajsm.s112688.
Putukian, M. (2015). The psychological response to injury in student athletes: A narrative review with a focus on mental health. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 50(3), 145–148. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2015-095586.
Stowe, R. W. (2015). Social support in athletic injury prevention and recovery. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 23(2), 85–88. https://doi.org/10.1123/wspaj.2014-0036.
Weinberg, R., & Gould, D. (2019). Foundations of Sport and Exercise Psychology 7th Edition With Web Study Guide-Paper (Seventh ed.). Human Kinetics, Inc.