Working though an injury as an athlete can be a very frustrating and difficult process, especially with the demand to “make it to the playoffs.” It is very common for athletes to focus all of their energy and strength on the end goal: getting back out on the field.
But this end goal can cause stress (which shows up through things like sleep disturbances), performance anxiety and fear. A chilling question may play on repeat in one’s mind – Will I be the same as before…? The fear underlying this question can cause athletes to freeze or lock up on the field once the injury has healed leaving them with a loss of confidence and motivation.
One of the most important steps to preventing a frozen state from occurring is being supported by your team. The best way to achieve this support is having open communication about the injury with your doctors, coaches, and teammates. Continue to discuss the recovery of the injury and measures needed to prevent its recurrence. This communication helps injured athletes to not feel isolated in their injury – and in their fear. An athlete sitting out from practices and games already feels distant from the team, so open communication is crucial to feeling supported and united with the team. And it helps reduce the pressure “to get back out there” since the coaches, teammates and physicians will all understand the course of treatment. Once it is time to get back out on the field, your team can provide encouragement and motivation for you to overcome your anxiety and lack of confidence.
As an injured athlete, it also is vital to take care of yourself while recovering from injury, as your body needs all its energy to heal. Focus on what you can do – not what you cannot do. This will help boost your confidence and foster strength. Working through an injury and getting back to your game can be a difficult process, but by practicing open communication and self-care, your recovery and transition back can be smooth.
Heather Nickrand, M.A.