It can happen to everyone, and it can happen multiple times. And you should be ready for this possibility as well as be prepared to overcome the challenges.
Since you are reading this article, I suppose that you have probably been injured in the past and you are afraid that it will happen again, or you are in the process of recovering from one.
I hope that some of you are here just to know in advance how you will cope with such an event if it ever happens.
I hope it never will!
Let’s start by saying that an injury might have been caused because you made a mistake, and you know it, or it was a result of some circumstance that you could not possibly avoid.
Whatever the reason, it belongs to the past, and there is no reason overanalyzing and overthinking about it. Now, you should only focus on the present and what can you do to heal faster mentally and physically.
I know that you have worked so hard to get where you are now, and you have made so many sacrifices.
You probably feel beaten down wondering “why me”? But that is life, my friend. All the weird and unpredictable things can and may happen.
There are many different injuries that can be categorized according to their severity and the time that you will need to recover. This depends on so many factors. For that reason, we are not going to concentrate on the severity of the injury, rather on what you can do to overcome it faster and have a more positive state of mind.
It is true that a person with a positive state of mind will overcome the injury faster
You might have noticed that before the injury, you were feeling a bit beaten down, a bit low in energy, you even felt some pains here and there, but did not pay attention. Then the unthinkable happened. You didn’t even see it coming and now you are probably walking around with crutches.
This is a case where you need to slow down and listen to your body really carefully. Yes, I know there was a big competition coming, and you had to give all you had.
But what is better? Giving yourself the time to rest and recover from tiredness or not participate at all because an injury happened?
These are the types of injuries that you can avoid. It is almost certain that the body will give you signals of exhaustion before it will say, “that’s it, I give up” and you end up injuring yourself.
Does this worth jeopardizing your athletic career overall? Of course not.
Preventing an injury is much better than trying to deal with one.
So always listen carefully when your body is warning you, pay attention to the signs and just stop!
You probably know in case you have been injured already, that the physical pain of the injury is the least of your worries and frustration. It is the fact that you have to go through a rehab process and give up your sport for a while.
Well, try not to focus on that right now.
And you might tell me: “The doctor told me that I might not be able to play again”. What do I do in this case?
I would still say do not worry about that either. There are so many times where I have seen athletes getting so heavily injured, doctors claiming that they would never play again, and still, they would get back in the field, a few months later.
That is why I would definitely say; whatever doctors might have said:
Do not give up on your body and your rehab journey as nobody can ever know what YOU are capable of doing.
Allow me to use a rather extreme example, just to wake you up from your negativity, if you are into this state of mind right now.
There are numerous patients suffering from other illnesses (incurable ones) when doctors are giving specific timelines of remaining life for them.
Yet, they have proven them SO wrong, achieving the ‘’impossible’’.
So please, get yourself together and start taking baby steps towards your goal. If you really want to make it, you will.
The reason why I will focus on the mental challenge and the mental pain an injury is causing is simply that IT IS tougher to handle your emotional injuries than the physical ones.
By no means, I do not want to underestimate how painful a broken bone or ripped cartilage or a destroyed leg can be. I have been there, and I know how painful it can be. But once the physical pain will numb away, the mental pain will emerge, and this is when you have to give all you got.
Keep in mind that this is not a journey that you have to take alone.
There are people and groups out there that can really support you, motivate you and shorten the healing process.
Coaches, parents, friends, doctors that are sensitive and understand what you are going through, will have a crucial role in your life so let them support you as much as they can.
Someone would wonder:
Why is it so challenging for an athlete to overcome an injury?
Well, the answer can be broken down into 3 parts, but it all stems from the fact that you are an athlete.
Being an athlete is like having a specific identity and this identity is what gives you a sense of belonging.
All human beings need to feel that they belong to a specific group, and this sense of belonging is extremely powerful when you are a professional athlete.
1. The sense of belonging is damaged
As I mentioned already, the feeling of belonging, thus the sense of identity is an integral part of an athlete’s character. If you know who you are and what you want from your life, and you know that you are willing to make sacrifices to become better and better in your sport, then inevitably when you are injured, your personality gets hurt as well.
Being away from the sports world puts you under an identity crisis, as your former role is not what is it anymore. But, pay attention! It is only for a specific amount of time. Unless you are planning to retire
2. Believing in yourself goes downhill
Ask anybody, ask yourself. How do you feel when you are playing in the field along with your teammates and you are winning? How do you feel when people are cheering for you and motivate you? This is an unbelievable feeling my friend, and this is what fuels most athlete’s self-esteem and what gives them the strength and motivation to do it over and over again.
This enjoyment and self-satisfaction are one of the strongest feelings an athlete is experiencing.
This recognition and the satisfaction you get after all of this hard work is the ultimate feeling that does not compare to another.
I guess you already figured out why self-esteem gets smashed when an injury occurs.
3. You need to start coping with your emotional strength when the body cannot support you
Athletes are very well aware, of how important it is to combine mental and physical strength to perform the best way they can. This is a relationship that consists of two partners.
Mind and body. Working together for the win.
But what happens when one partner is not able to support the other?
Then you need to find a way to make it work and support your body utilizing your mind. You need to find the strength to internalize the stress and find a constructive way to channel your anger and frustration.
There is nothing worse than spiraling into a vicious cycle of self-guilt, anger, frustration and resentment when your body is trying to heal.
Think about the partners’ analogy again. Isn’t it only fair for the mental partner to do the heavy lifting for now, so that the body can get stronger again?
Try to understand that there is nothing worse than feeling sorry for yourself when you are injured. You are who you were before, even if your bones are broken.
You will be the same person once your healing will be completed. There is no room for thoughts like:
“Who am I now? Where do I belong? What will happen if I will not overcome the injury?”
Just kill those thoughts immediately. There are no if’s in this unless you are a future teller.
Try to gather all of your positivity-because I am sure you have it, you are an athlete after all- and let’s banish all the doubts.
There is NO doubt about it. Keeping a positive outlook and mindset after a big injury is very tough. It is way tougher than having to face the most challenging opponent.
And it is tough because no matter how many people you have around to support you, YOU are the only one that will ultimately help yourself overcome your problem.
There will be times that you will lose hope and you will feel like you will never get out of the tunnel. But you will.
What if you stop just before the exit?
Another thing that you might be thinking is, of course, your team-mates. What will happen if you stay away for a long time and what if somebody else will take your place?
This is a huge self-esteem blow. Again, these thoughts belong to the sphere of the ‘’hypothetical questions’’, and you should be not focusing on that right now.
Your worth as an athlete was and will be exactly the same when you recover. So first YOU need to focus on recovering.
There is no point in thinking long-term at the moment. It will not serve you good in any way.
It will be very unfair and very sad if you won’t give yourself the chance to try and do your very best to heal faster.
So, think simple. The injury has happened. This belongs in the past, which means that it cannot change whatever you do, no matter how much you beat yourself up, no matter how guilty or angry you feel.
You are in the present, and you CAN affect the future. As long as you grasp the facts and focus all of your energy and mental strength towards one thing. Healing.
Let’s sum up
1. It is perfectly understandable that you will feel sad and mourn about the current situation.
It is also healthy to do so. But after this phase of sadness that happens to everyone, even if you lose somebody or break up with somebody you love, there is a phase of understanding and taking responsibility for your emotions. You can prolong the mourning phase as long as you want, but the longer it lasts, the longer it will take you to heal. Think clearly and deal with the current reality the best way you can, using the resources you have, and accepting the love and support from loved ones. Accept the fact that injury happened, own it, stop blaming yourself, and move on.
2. Positivity is the KEY
I talked about it already and maybe it will never be enough, but this thing is the alpha and the omega if you really want to be in the field again.
It is also proven scientifically, that people with a more positive attitude towards some unfortunate incident in their lives, made them overcome the issue much faster than the ones that had a negative outlook of the situation.
It is entirely up to you to either slow your rehab process up or down.
Being miserable about what happened to you will not change anything. It will certainly make things worse. Focus on your current reality and try to achieve small goals every single day. These baby steps can be literally anything. It can be keeping a diary of your healing progress or reminding yourself of what you have achieved so far.
Keep reminding yourself how strong you are by having positive quotes written all over your house and remind yourself that since you are an athlete, that means that you must be damn strong!
3. Do everything possible to speed up the process
This means working as hard as when you are in the field. It is your body after all. Do not cut corners and always do your best during your rehab sessions, no matter how boring, tiring and mentally exhausting they are. One thing is certain, laying down in bed all day, being miserable, won’t make your body heal faster.
You need to become stronger and stronger and this only needs time, patience and hard work.
Seek mental help as well if you feel like you need an extra boost. There is nothing wrong about it. Absolutely nothing wrong. On the contrary, the fact that you will be asking for help shows how much courage you have and how bad you want to get better.
We already mentioned that you should not be so hard on yourself and face everything alone. This is not a game that you need to win against your opponent.
It is a game much tougher than you need to win, against the toughest opponent ever, YOURSELF. Be brave and ask for help as this will increase your chances to heal faster.
In case you have noticed that it is really hard for you to focus, be positive, eat or sleep well, or even worse have thoughts of hurting yourself, then you should DEFINITELY seek professional help from a counselor that specializes in helping individuals who are suffering from athletic injuries.
Have a look at this article if you want to read further about the help that you can get during your rehabilitation.
4. Use your athlete traits for your advantage.
What being an athlete means to you and what has it taught you so far?
Is it the thrill of the competition and the crowd cheering for you, boosting your self-esteem? Is it the lessons you had to learn about how mental toughness, resilience, consistency and team spirit?
The answer is all of the above. Being an athlete has surely taught you so many things so far. And this is the time to use this knowledge on your advantage. You might have not thought about it this way before, but all those traits that you have evolved, are traits that will follow you in every aspect of your life. Not only in the field.
Being an athlete shapes you as a person and flourishes your personality. It also teaches you to never give up! Does it? Prove it now, then. Remind yourself what being an athlete means- because you never lost this identity- and use all the precious tools in order to get over this hard situation.
It is almost the same as a game in the field. Prove to yourself how powerful and persistent you are and with a lot of patience and trust in yourself, you will win the most important game of your life.